Skip to main content

Full text of "Saga book of the Viking Club"

See other formats




Saga Book 

Viking Society 

for northern IResearcb 

Founded in 1892 as the Orkney Shetland and 
Northern Society 


Printed for the 

Viking Society for Northern Research 

University of London 



(founded in 1892 as the Orkney, Shetland and Northern 
Society, or Viking Club). 


President : A. W. JOHNSTON, F.S.A.Scot. 

Vice-Presidents : H. L. BR/EKSTAD ; Professor W. P. KER, LL.D., Past President; 
Professor I. GOLLANCZ, Litt.D., Past President ; Professor ALLEN MAWEK, M. A. ; 

Honorary Vice-Presidents : The Most Hon. THE MAKQUIS OK ZETLAND; The 
WATSON CHEYNE, BT., C.B.. LL.D, F.R.S., Past President ; J. W. CURSITER, 
F.S.A.Scot.; GILBERT GOUDIE, F.S.A.Scot., Past Hon. President; Miss 
CORNELIA HORSFORD ; Captain M. A. LAING, Lord Lieutenant of Orkney and 
Zetland; Prof. J. LAWRENCE, D.Lit.Lond. ; Professor SOPHUS MULI.EK ; 
ROLAND ST. CLAIR ; Kev. A. SANDISON. Past President; Mrs. JESSIE M. E. 
SAXBY; Pastor A. V. STORM; E. M. WARBURG; The Right Hon. T. 
McKiNNON WOOD, M.P., LL.D., D.L., Past President. 

Hon. Treasurer : A. SHAW MELLOR, M.A., M.B.Cantab. 

Hon. Editors: Saga-Book and Year-Book Professor ALLEN MAWER, M.A. 

Old-Lore Series A. W. JOHNSTON. F.S.A.Scot., and A. JOHNSTON. 

Hon. Secretary : MRS. A. WINTLE JOHNSTON, 

29, Ashburnham Mansions, Chelsea, S.W. 

(Lond.)., F.G.S. ; E. F. ETCHELLS, M.J.I.; J. W. SUTHERLAND LEASK ; 
J. M. LAUGHTON, M.B., C.M. ; W. R. L. LOWE, M.A ; F. P. MARCHANT; 

Trustees : Prof. Sir W. WATSON CHEYNE, Bt., C.B., LL.D., F.R.S. 
The Right Hon. T. McKiNNON WOOD, M.P., LL.D., D.L. 


Hon. Solicitor : T. DAVIES JONES. 


Saga-Book (Proceedings), and Year Book issued annually. 

Old-Lore Series of Miscellany and Records relating to the Old Norse Earldom 

of Orkney, Shetland, Caithness and Sutherland issued quarterly. 
Translation Series : Vol. I., Cormac Saga, 6s. 6d. (pub. 75. 6d.). 
Vol. II., Elder Edda, 103. 6d. (pub. 155.). 

Extra Series ; Vol. L, Birds of Omen in Shetland (out of print). 

Vol. II., Ruins of Saga-time in Iceland, 125. 6d. bound. 
Vol. III., Essays on Beowulf, IDS. 6d. (pub. 125. 6d.). . 

Miscellaneous : Library Catalogue of the Society, 6d. ; Review Origines Islandicae, 
by Eirikr Magmisson. MA., 2s. ; Bibliography of Caithness and Sutherland, 
is. 6d. ; Rev. Alex. Pope, Reay (biography), 6d. ; Grdtta-Songr, text, translation 
and notes, by Eiri'kr Magmisson, is. 6d. ; DarraSaljofi, text, translation and 
notes, by Eirikr Magnusson, is 6d. ; Sinclairs of Brabsterdorran (genealogy), is.; 
Sword- Dance, Papa Stour, and Four Shetland Airs, ?d. 

Prospectus may be obtained on application to the Hon. Secretary. 

The Council of the Viking Society do not hold themselves responsible for 
statements or opinions appearing in Reports, Papers, Reviews, or Notes in the 
SAGA-BOOK and YEAR- BOOK, the Authors alone being answerable for the same. 





Mr. A. W. JOHNSTON, F. S.A.Scot. (President), in the Chair. 

A paper was read on " The Cultus of Norwegian 
Saints in England and Scotland " by Dr. Edvard Bull. 
The following members took part in the discussion : 
Mr. W. R. L. Lowe, Mr. F. Marsh, Mr. John 
Marshall, Mr. W. Barnes Steveni, Mr. F. P. Marchant 
and Mr. A. W. Taylor. 

The Chairman moved a hearty vote of thanks to the 
author for his paper, and to Mr. A. W. Taylor, for 
reading it, which was carried unanimously. Printed 
on pp. 135-148- 

MEETING, FEBRUARY 2isx, 1913. 

Mr. A. W. JOHNSTON, F.S.A.Scot. (President), in the Chair. 

The President gave a short account of the pre-Norse 
inhabitants of Orkney, Shetland and Iceland, the Norse 
colonisation and the conversion of the Vikings to 
Christianity. It is now asserted that there are a number 
of large cave dwellings with inscriptions in the South 
of Iceland, pointing to a large pre-Norse population and 
not merely to the few Irish priests or Papas whom the 
Norse found there in the gth century. From the old 
forms of Norse place-names, odal tenure, etc., found in 

132 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

the Orkneys, it is surmised that the settlement of these 
islands took place as early as 700. The Picts having 
been christianized as early as 565, this would give 150 
years, which is ample time, to account for the numerous 
Pictish ecclesiastical remains in the islands. Mr. 
Johnston said it was his opinion that the Vikings 
settled down peaceably and intermarried with the Picts. 
This is borne out by the survival of Pictish place- 
names and church dedications, and the latter indicate 
that Christianity never entirely died out in the islands. 
This latter theory is also supported by the ease with 
which Christianity was established there in 995, in 
strong contrast to the great opposition offered in pagan 
Norway. Moreover, the cathedral of Orkney was built 
only some 50 years after the sword-baptism of Earl 

The Venerable Archdeacon Craven is of the opinion 
that two Celtic waves of Christianity affected Orkney 
and Shetland, the first being a mission of St. Kentigern 
from the East, and the second St. Cormac's historic 
mission from St. Columba in the West, represented 
respectively by the dedications to St. Ninian and St. 

The origin of Norse literature was also referred to. 
Up to the 1 2th century the laws, sagas, and Edda lays 
were oral traditions. Christianity with its written 
Scriptures and missals gave the impetus to the writing 
down of the laws and sagas in the I2th century. We 
find Earl Ronald, a poet, and Bishop Biarni, the Skald, 
busy at literary work in that century in conjunction 
with Icelandic Skalds, when possibly some of the 
Western Edda lays were rescued and recorded. Many 
of Snorri's poetic words are still used as tabu names in 
Shetland and nowhere else. This is highly suggestive, 
seeing that the islanders changed their Norse speech for 
English from two to three centuries ago. 

Mrs. Bannon and Mr. F. P. Marchant took part in 
the discussion which followed. 

Proceedings at Meetings. 133 

MEETING, MARCH 14, 1913. 

Mr. A. W. JOHNSTON. F.S.A.Scot. (President), in the Chair. 

Professor W. P. Ker, LL.D. (Vice-President), read 
a paper on " Bishop Jon Arason." 

The Chairman moved a vote of thanks to Professor 
Ker for his paper, which was carried unanimously. 
Printed on pp. 149-171. 



Mr. A. W. JOHNSTON, F.S.A.Scot. (President and Founder), in the Chair. 

The Twenty-first Annual General Meeting was held 
at King's College, Strand, on St. Magnus Day, 
Wednesday, April i6th, at 8 p.m. 

The Annual Report was presented to the meeting and 
adopted unanimously. 

The officers of the Society, nominated by the Council 
for the ensuing year, were unanimously elected, Mr. 
F. P. Marchant and Mr. Douglas C. Stedman acting 
as scrutineers to the ballot. 

Professor Allen Mawer, M.A., read a paper on 
" Scandinavian Influence in English Place-names." 

The meeting terminated with a hearty vote of thanks 
to Professor Mawer for his paper. 

Printed on pp. 172-210. 

MEETING, MAY 2 3 RD, 1913. 

Mr. A. W. JOHNSTON, F.S.A.Scot. (President), in the Chair. 

The President, Mr. A. W. Johnston, gave his 
Inaugural Address, " Orkney and Shetland Historical 

134 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

A discussion followed in which Mr. J. S. Clouston 
and Mr. John Marshall took part. Printed on pp. 


Mr. A. W. JOHNSTON, F. S.A.Scot. (President), in the Chair. 

A paper was read on " Temple-Administration and 
Chieftainship in Pre-Christian Norway and Iceland," 
by Miss Bertha S. Phillpotts, M.A. 

The Chairman, Dr. Jon Stefansson, Mr. John 
Marshall, Mr. F. P. Marchant, and Mr. Etchells took 
part in the discussion which followed. The meeting 
terminated with a hearty vote of thanks to Miss 
Phillpotts for her paper. Printed on pp. 264-284. 


Mr. A. W. JOHNSTON, F. S.A.Scot. (President), in the Chair. 

A paper was read on " Thyra, Wife of Gorm the 
Old, was she English or Danish? " by Captain Ernest 

A discussion followed, in which the Chairman and 
Dr. Jon Stefansson and Mr. John Marshall took part. 

The Chairman moved a hearty vote of thanks to 
Captain Rason for his paper. It was accorded by 
acclamation, and the reader responded. Printed on pp. 



SEEING how short is the distance from the Orkneys 
to Scotland, and frequent as have always been, 
from the very beginning of historical times, com- 
munications across the Pentland Firth, it is not 
improbable that ecclesiastical customs would be trans- 
mitted from Scotland to the Orkneys and from the 
Orkneys to Scotland from the earliest times. As the 
mediaeval sources relating to the Orkneys are rather 
scanty, we know very little of the first movement 1 ; ws 
are, however, better informed as to the movement from 
the North southwards, especially in connection with 
the veneration of the saint, Earl Magnus of the 

Near the chapel of Ladykirk, in South Ronaldsay, 
the southernmost of the Orkneys, whence there is the 
shortest passage to Scotland, a stone is found, four feet 
long and pointed at both ends. It is called the boat 
of St. Magnus, 2 and local traditions concerning it still 
exist. Magnus is said to have used the stone as a boat 
in the same way that so many other saints have done 
before him when passing the Pentland Firth, and 
afterwards to have carried it to Ladykirk. According 
to others the stone is really a petrified whale. It is in 
fact the very whale which carried the earl on its back 
from Caithness to the Orkneys, thus enabling him to 
fulfil his promise to build a church and dedicate it to 

1 A few disconnected remarks in the Statuta Generalia of the 
Scottish Church (pp. cxiii. 111-112, 136) are almost all. 

2 Mackinlay, Folklore of Scottish lochs and springs, Glasgow, 1893, 
pp. yzff. The same, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland, Edin- 
burgh, 1910, p. 122. 

136 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

Our Lady. In later times penitent sinners used to stand 
barefooted on the stone. 

In the northern part of Caithness, on the boundary 
between the parishes of Halkirk and Watten, there was 
a hospital consecrated to St. Magnus, and in the igth 
century an annual Magnus Fair was still held at Hal- 
kirk on the Tuesday before December 26th. 1 

Even in Celtic literature the worship of St. Magnus 
may be traced in the beautiful hymn, A Mhannis mo 
ruin,* in which Magnus is invoked as a deity of 
fecundity, who is besought to be kind to the cattle and 
support the growth of plants and animals. In this 
as in nearly all other prayers in the popular language 
his direct help is solicited, and not only his intercession 
with God. 

We also find such local traditions relating to St. 
Olave in the northern parts of Scotland. The church of 
Cruden in Aberdeenshire was dedicated to this saint, 
and was certainly very old, even if the tradition that it 
was built in commemoration of the defeat of the Danes 
(" crow-dan ") at Cruden, in the year 1006, by King 
Malcolm, who died in 1033 or 1034, three or four years 
after the battle at Stiklestad, sounds highly improbable. 
In the parish a holy well, called St. Olave's, is to be 
found, of which the people sing : 

St. Olave's well low by the sea, 
Where pest nor plague shall never be. 

vSt. Olave's fair is still held at Cruden in the month 
of March. 3 

This last fact leads us to the official Scottish ecclesi- 
astical practice in the last period of Catholicism, when 
the day of St.- Olave was kept, strangely enough, in 

1 Mackinlay, The pre-reformation church and Scottish place-names, 
1904, pp. 380 ff. The day of St. Magnus was really Dec. I3th ; but prob- 
ably the fair is of earlier origin than the worship of the Saint. 

2 Henderson, The Norse influence on Celtic Scotland, p. 35. 

3 Proceedings o.f the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, III., pp. 144-49. 
Mackinlay, Folklore of Scottish lochs, etc., p. 105. The same, The 
pre-reformation church, etc., p. 21. 

The Cult us of Norwegian Saints. 137 

the last days of March. Here there are two chief 
sources of information to be taken into account. The 
first is the Breviarium Aberdonense, belonging to about 
the same time as the breviary and missal of Nidaros. 
It was printed in 1509, by direction of Bishop Elphin- 
stone, 1 with a view to delivering the Scottish Church 
from the overwhelming influence of the liturgy of 
Sarum, the use of which had been admitted for national 
reasons, to counter-balance the claims of York on the 
primacy in Scotland. There is full reason, then, to 
suppose that this breviary contains fairly good evidence 
of Scottish church practice. 

The other source is a missal from the church of St. 
Nicolas in Aberdeen, originally printed in Rouen, in 
1506, according to the missal of Salisbury, but with 
manuscript notes. These notes, according" to Scottish 
investigators, bear traces of Norse influence ; but other- 
wise the calendar in this missal is very corrupt and 
quite overloaded with festivals. 2 

According to both these calendars the day of St. 
Olave is to be kept on March 3Oth, instead of on July 
29th. 3 The breviary, however, lays down 4 that if March 
3Oth falls in Easter week or on the first Sunday after 
Easter, the celebration is to be put off till after that 

1 Reprinted London, 1854, in two vols. (Pars hyemalis and Pars 
estiva). The notes concerning Olave are printed also by Metcalfe, 
Passio et Miracula beati Olavi, pp. nyff. (see also pp. 33ff.) 

- Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 33 
(1898-99), pp. 440-60. 

3 3ist, according to Registrum Episcopatus Aberdonensis, Edin- 
burgh, 1845, II., p. 7. 

* The print by Metcalfe, Passio, etc., p. 33, of these regulations 
is very inaccurate ; the text of Brev. Aberd. (March 3oth) : Si hoc 
festum sancti olaui vel festum sancti reguli infra passionem domini 
vel in ebdoma pasche aut in dominica oct. eiusdem contigerit nichil fiet 
de ipsis usque post octa. pasche et ibi tune vbi conueniencius possunt 
celebrari : de ipsis fiat seruicium cum tribus lectionibus istius tem- 
poris. Sed cum R. iis et v. paschalis temporis. Et ita faciendum est 
de omnibus aliis festis simplicibus ix. lectionum infra dictum tempus 
contingenti. Ad matuti. ix. lee. fiant. See also Brev. Aberd. 
July agth. 

138 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

Sunday, and the day is then to be observed with two 
lessons only. The nine lessons which otherwise belong 
to the day of St. Olave, in these years, are to be read 
on July 29th, upon which day only a memorial of St. 
Olave is, as a rule, read. I am not able to explain this 
curious feature in the Aberdeen calendar. It is perhaps 
to be supposed that the March fair at Cruden is old, 
and that later it took its name from the saint of the 
parish church, and that then the festival from Cruden 
spread either over the whole diocese of Aberdeen, or 
perhaps only to the town of Aberdeen, not many miles 

That the day of St. Magnus is celebrated as a higher 
feast than that of St. Olave (as festum duplex), is quite 
natural. So is it that not only the festival of his trans- 
lation, December i3th, 2 but partly also the day of his 
death, April i6th, is observed as inferius duplex, and 
that the breviary of Aberdeen contains rather long 
hymns in his honour, while in the case of Olave only 
a very short legend is appointed. The worship of these 
two saints in the northern parts of Scotland has, of 
course, come from the Orkneys, where Magnus must 
have been much more popular than Olave. 3 

The cult of the two Norse saints, which we find in 
England, is of quite a different character. Here we 
find Olave more prominent, and Magnus seems a more 
or less casual attendant on his great compatriot. His 
worship is, however, not altogether without interest. In 
southern Scotland St. Magnus is not worshipped, and 
of the three churches dedicated to him in England, 
two belong to the southern parts of the country, Lon- 

1 To this worship of St. Olave in Northern Scotland belongs also 
the altar dedicated to him in S. Salvator's College, St. Andrews 

z i2th, in the missal of St. Nicolas ; i4th, in Liber Ecclesias Beati 
Terrenani de Arbuthnott (ed. A. P. Forbes, Edinburgh, 1872). 

'* Daaej Norges helgener, p. 206, says that the nephew of Magnus, 
the Saint Earl Ragnvald, too, was worshipped in Scotland, but with- 
out giving any evidence. 

The Cult us of Norwegian Saints. 139 

don and Dorsetshire, and only one is situated in the 
North at Bessingby, in Yorkshire (East Riding). 1 Sea- 
communication of any importance between the Orkneys 
and England in the I2th century is not to be thought 
of, and a direct connexion with the North does not 
seem very probable, as the worship of Magnus is not 
to be traced in southern Scotland or northern England. 
There can therefore scarcely be any doubt but that 
this worship reached England from Norway, and that 
owing to the lively traffic between the two countries not 
only has Norway been influenced from England, but 
also England from Norway. That this last was the 
case in the Viking Period has always been acknow- 
ledged ; but as Magnus was not regarded as a saint in 
the Orkneys before the year 1135, his worship cannot 
have been brought from Norway to England earlier 
than in the second half of the twelfth century. 2 

This influence surely issued from the western parts 
of Norway. Magnus, of course, like the other saints 
of the Norwegian church had his altar in the cathedral 
df Trondhjem ; but all other traces of his worship in 
Norway, that can be localized, belong to the West. 
Generally speaking, the Norwegian Church only 
observe the day of his death (April 6th) ; but some few 
letters from Voss prove that here, not far from Bergen, 
the day of his translation (December I3th, generally 
called St. Lucia's Day), was also kept. 3 In the church 
of Urnes in Sogn is a runic inscription which contains 
the name of St. Magnus ; and in addition to this Pro- 
fessor Magnus Olsen, who has deciphered the inscrip- 
tion, mentions evidence of active communication 

1 Frances Arnold-Forster, Studies in church dedications, London, 
1899, II., pp. 455-60. Miss Forster has no doubt that these churches 
really concern the Saint-Earl from the Orkneys, and not some of the 
Other saints with the name of Magnus ; but she gives no evidence, and 
I have not been able to verify it. 

2 But on the other hand, not much later; the Magnus church existed 
already in 1203 (Metcalfe, I.e., p. 119). 

* Historisk Tidsskrift, III., Series II., p. 103. 

140 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

between the Orkneys and Sogn in the Middle Ages. 1 
It was from these parts probably that the worship of 
Magnus reached England in the I2th century. 

How long the earl of the Orkneys was venerated in 
England cannot accurately be told; but possibly his 
cult continued until the Reformation. Henry Machyn, 
citizen of London, who has left an elaborate and very 
interesting diary for the years 1550-63, relates that 
in 1559, on September i6th, there were burnt at 
the corner of Pye-street pictures of Christ on ihe 
cross, Mary, John and St. Magnus; and there is no 
reason why this should have been any other than the 
Norse earl, who had his church in London, near Lon- 
don Bridge. 

A much more prominent part, however, is played in 
England by St. Olave. He was popular as well in 
Anglo-Saxon times as after the Norman conquest. 
At least fifteen churches dedicated to him are known in 

The oldest evidence on this subject seems to be the 
story that the well-known Earl Siward of Northumbria 
(1055) m the time of Edward the Confessor, built an 
Olave's church at York, where he was himself buried ; 
but already in the year 1098, King William Rufus 
gave this church to St. Mary's abbey, 3 and only a 
little parish church in the neighbourhood (Marygate) 
has kept the name of the Norwegian saint. Probably 
also the son of Siward, Earl Wealhtheow, had inherited 
his father's love of St. Olave. During the turbulent 
times after the Norman Conquest he frequently 
resided in Lincolnshire, where he presented Crowland 
Abbey with large donations. 4 Perhaps it is from this 

1 Aarsberetning fra foreningen til fortidsmindesmerkers bevaring, 
1907, pp. i35ff, 160. 

2 Diary of Henry Machyn, citizen of London, ed. J. G. Nichols, 
London, 1848, p. 209. 

3 Arnold-Forster, Church Dedications, II., pp. 45iff. 
4 Monasticon Anglicanum (ed. 1846), III., p. .546. 

5 Worsaae, Minder om danske og norske i England, p. 169-74. 

The Cultus of Norwegian Saints. 141 

period that the stone statue on Crowland Bridge dates. 
It represents a man with a huge loaf or cake, and local 
tradition has supposed it to be St. Olave, whose name 
has been transformed to Holofius, and by way of 
popular imagination connected with the word loaf. 1 

From Anglo-Saxon times also dates the votive mass 
in honour of St. Olave, which is prescribed in The 
Red Book of Derby, a manuscript from the diocese of 
Winchester, which was written about the year 1061. 
In this manuscript not only is Olave the latest saint 
recognised, but the only one who is not English. 2 

Finally, St. Olave's church at Exeter is earlier than 
io66. 3 

It is possible that the Xorman Conquest brought 
about a reaction against the worship of the Norwegian 
saint, but in no case can this have been of long dura- 
tion. The communications with Norway, recorded in 
the time of Henry I., 4 grew more and more frequent, 
and must have kept green the memory of St. Olave. 

Characteristic of the prominent part played by St. 
Olave in the ideas Englishmen had of Scandinavia, and 
how they considered him the real centre of all the 
Scandinavian North, is the tale of the death of 
Swein Forkbeard in Maistre Geffrei Gaimar's poem 
L'estorie des Engles (written between 1135 and 1147). 

At York was he buried : 

But then after ten years or more 

The Danes took up his bones ; 

They were carried to Norway, 

To Saint Olaf, there were they laid. 

In St. Peter's minster he lay 

When the Danes took him away. 

1 J. Gunn, Illustrations of the Rod-screen at Barton-Turf, Norwich, 
1869. Kunst og Kultur, II. (1911), pp. 5<>ff- 

- The Leofric Missal, ed. F. E. Warren, Oxford, 1883, p. 244. 
Historisk Tidsskrift, 3rd Series, IV., p. 357-69. 

8 Dansk Historisk Tidsskrift, 5th Series, I., p. 563, notes. 

4 Diplomatarium Norvegicum, XIX., nr. 32. 

5 Rerum Brittanicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores (vv. 4162-69). 

142 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

After the conquest of Ireland, under Henry II., an 
Olave's abbey was founded in Dublin from Bristol, 
and it continued (till it was abolished by Henry 
VIII.) to keep up its connection with the convent of 
Augustinian monks at Bristol. 1 

As late as in the beginning of the I3th century we 
are told that a monastery was founded in the honour of 
St. Olave at Herringfleet, on the borders of Norfolk 
and Suffolk. 2 Although it is expressly said to have 
been founded by Roger Fitz Osbert shortly after 1216, 
English writers have considered this impossible. They 
have been of the opinion that all English churches 
and monasteries in honour of St. Olave of which 
by far the greater part cannot be dated must go back 
to Anglo-Saxon times, when the Norsemen still formed 
a separate class within the English people. And they 
have supported their theory by referring to the fact that 
all Olave's churches in England with but one excep- 
tion were situated near the sea, where consequently 
the Vikings and their descendants might have had 
ready access. Accordingly it has been maintained that 
the monastery of Herringfleet cannot have been 
founded for the first time in 1216, but was only rebuilt 
and enlarged at that time. 

Of this older foundation, however, nothing is known 
at all, and no remains have" been found in spite of care- 
ful excavations, undertaken by the present proprietor 
of the ruins. 3 Moreover, it seems quite superfluous in 
this way to contest the express words of the text. If an 
abbey in honour of St. Olave can have been founded 
in Dublin at the end of the I2th century, and if the 
worship of St. Magnus can have been introduced into 

1 J. P. Rushe, A Second Thebaid, Dublin and London, 1905, p. 59. 
J. T. Gilbert, A History of the City of Dublin, 1854, I., pp. 48ff. 
Bits of the garments of Olave were preserved, already from the nth 
century, in the Trinity-abbey of Dublin (Daae, Norges helgener, 

P- 57)- 

2 The Victoria History of Suffolk, London, 1907, II., p. 100. 
1 Kunst og Kultur, II. (1911), pp. 498. 

The Cnltus of Norwegian Saints. 143 

England about the same time, it is not at all impossible 
that a monastery in honour of >St. Olave may have been 
founded in the beginning of the i3th century. 

From this same period date also two manuscripts 
giving evidence of Norse influence on the English 
Church. The first belonged to Fountains Abbey near 
York, and is a copy of the work composed by Arch- 
bishop Eystein of Trondhjem, Passio et miracula beati 
Olavi. 1 The other is a psalter, originally written for the 
use of King Henry III., but with some calendar addi- 
tions, evidently from the i3th century, including the 
following: i6th of April, Magni duds m. ; i5th of 
May, Sancti Halluardi martyris ; 8th of July, Sancto- 
rum in selio ; 2Qth of July, Olaui regis et martins. 2 

These facts seem to be of no slight importance, 
as showing that Xorse influence in England was not 
restricted to Anglo-Saxon times, but continued in the 
1 2th and i3th century, at a time when the Norwegians 
who visited England were no longer Vikings, .but only 
more or less peaceful merchants, tradesmen and clerics. 

By far the greater number of the churches dedicated 
to St. Olave were situated in laree towns ; at least 
four in London, two at Norwich, 3 one at Chester, 
one at Exeter, one at Chichester; and most of the 
village churches were situated near the sea Ruckland 
in Lincolnshire, Greeting in Suffolk, Gatcombe in the 
Isle of Wight, and Poughill near Bude in North 
Cormvall. 4 

The age of these churches cannot be established ; but 
the theory of Miss Arnold-Forster that most of them 
go back to the time when the Danes ruled in England, 
seems to me highly improbable. We have no evidence 

1 Edited by Metcalfe, Oxford, 1881. 

2 Dansk Historisk Tidsskrift, 8th Series, III., p. 232, note. 

3 Blomefield, Hist, of Norfolk (ed. 1806). IV., 2, pp. 65 and 475. An 
Olave's-guild is mentioned at one of these churches in 1501. 

* All these dedications are to be found in the book of Miss Arnold- 
Forster (II., pp. 75iff), which, however, is to be used with some 

144 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

at all that the Danes spread the worship of St. Olave 
outside their own country, and we do not even know 
that Olave was regarded as a saint in Denmark itself, 
before the death of Harthacnut (1042). The oldest 
evidence of the worship of St. Olave in England 
belongs, as we have already mentioned, to the fifties 
and sixties of the nth century, and some of these 
churches may have been founded in these years, ' 
but scarcely all, or even the majority. The twenty- 
four years' reign of Edward the Confessor seems too 
short to include the foundation of four churches in 
London, dedicated to St. Olave. And as to the sea 
communications between Norway and England, we do 
not know much about them in the nth century, but 
everything goes to show that the reign of Magnus the 
Good (1035-47) an d of Harald Hardrada (1047-66) was 
not the time when they flourished most. Finally it may 
be mentioned that no one of these churches as it now 
stands is older than the Norman conquest, while at 
least one of them, Fritwell in Oxfordshire, is built in 
early Norman style. In short, the period when the 
worship of St. Olave spread most rapidly in England 
seems to have been the first 150 years or so after the 
Conquest. And in all this time it seems to have spread 
by direct influence from Norway, and not from one or 
more centres originating in England itself. 

A few such centres, however, existed, and trans- 
mitted the worship of St. Olave not so much to other 
places as to later times. First of all, London must be 
mentioned, where, as late as the last century, there were 
founded two suburban churches bearing the name of 
St. Olave. 2 In the Ghetto of London, Old Jewry, near 

1 If Snorri is to be relied upon, there was an Olave's church in 
London in the reign of Harald Hardrada (1047-66). (The saga of 
H. H., ch. 57). 

a At Stoke Newington and at Mile End, East London. The last 
one got its name because it was built from funds belonging to the 
?ld church in Hart Street. 

The Cultus of Norwegian Saints. 145 

Cheapside, was situated one Olave's church, mentioned 
for the first time in the reign of Edward the First, 1 and 
in the City itself also were to be found churches dedi- 
cated to this saint in Hart Street and in Silver Street. 
Just outside the City, in Southwark, at the end of 
London Bridge, is the still existing Olave's church in 
Tooley Street. 2 At the other end of London Bridge 
there stands a church dedicated to St. Magnus, and 
thus the very centre of the traffic in old London was 
flanked by churches dedicated to Norwegian saints. 

To the church in Silver Street is attached a tale from 
the last period of Catholicism, which is often quoted in 

When Queen Mary resuscitated Catholicism in Eng- 
land, she also desired to revive the old Catholic festivals, 
cu&toms, miracle plays, etc., and of this also St. Olave 
had his share. For on the 2Qth of July, 1557, the 
above-mentioned Henry Machyn says in his diary : 
" On the same 2Qth July, being S. Olave's Day, was the 
Church Holy Day in Silver Street, the Parish Church 
whereof was dedicated to that Saint. And at Eight of 
the Clock at Night began a Stage-Play of goodly 
Matter [relating, 'tis like, to that Saint]." 3 

To these London churches finally is to be added one 
at Queenhithe, on the west side of Bread Street Hill, 
which is mentioned in the Liber Custumarum in the 
reign of Edward I., but which was very early united 
with a Nicholas Church in the neighbourhood, and a 
chantry in St. Paul's Cathedral, whose age we do not 
know, but which was in the year 1391 incorporated 

1 Liber custumarum, ed. Riley, p. 230. 

3 Tooley is the common English corruption of " St. Olave, :> as 
Tullock (Toolog) is the Irish one. 

3 Strype, Historical Memorials, Ecclesiastical and Civil. London, 
1721. Fol., Vol. III., p. 379. The diary of H.M. as we know it has 
several lacunas just for these days ; but at the time of Strype it was 
still complete, and has been utilised by him. The words in [ ] were 
probably added by Strype. 

146 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

into the general property of the church because of its 
smallness. 1 

The other centre for the worship of St. Olave in 
England is the district on the borders of Norfolk and 
Suffolk. We have already mentioned the two churches 
at Norwich, the church at Greeting and the most 
important the Augustinian priory at Herringfleet. The 
coast-line has here, in the flat land, with its numerous 
streams of water, changed much in the course of time. 
The ruins of the old priory are now situated about five 
English miles from the sea, but close by a river whose 
valley gives an easy passage to Norwich. In former 
times, when the water-courses were larger and the ships 
smaller, the navigation over the Norfolk Broads to 
Norwich presented no difficulty ; the fleet of Swein 
Forkbeard is said to have passed Herringfleet on its 
way to this town ; and by the old ferry as well as later 
on over St. Olave's Bridge, there must have been 
important traffic. Still in our own time St. Olave's 
railway-junction marks this natural topographic turn- 

It therefore surely was a lucrative piece of business 
when the prior in 1226 got a royal license to hold an 
annual fair on the day of St. Olave. 2 The priory seems 
to have been prosperous for a long time ; some parts 
of the ruins are built in the Tudor style ; consequently, 
the priory still towards the end of mediaeval times had 
enough funds to construct rather important new 

Not far away (only 16 English miles), on the highest 
point in the neighbourhood, is situated the church of 
Barton Turf, dedicated to St. Michael. On a side- 
screen in this church there is to be found a painting 
from the i5th century, representing four saint-kings 

1 Munimenta Gildhallae Londoniensis, pp. 230, 233, 235. Metcalfe, 
Passio, p. 34. Calendar of the Patent Rolls, Richard II., Vol. IV.. 
p. 421. 

' Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum, London, 1844, II., p. 165. 

The Cultits of Norwegian Saints. 147 

St. Edmund, St. Edward the Confessor, St. Holofius 
and King Henry VI. This last died in 1471, and 
Henry VII. later on tried to have him canonized by 
the Pope. Alexander VI. was not altogether unwill- 
ing, but finally it came to nothing. The picture of 
Henry VI. as a saint therefore must certainly date from 
the last years of the I5th century. The other kings 
seem to be about 50 years older. 1 It is curious evidence 
of the prominent part held by Olave in England, that 
as late as the I5th century he is the foreigner people 
would naturally represent together with the royal saints 
of the country itself. 

King's Lynn, on the Wash, is the English port 
which, in the i3th and I4th century, had the greatest 
traffic with Norwegian ships. We do not know if there 
was an Olave's church here ; but at least we hear of 
a place in the town called " St. Olave's fleet." 2 The 
Icelandic Saint, Thorlak, accomplished a wonderful 
miracle here about the year 1200.* 

Also it is probable that St. Olave was worshipped 
at Grimsby, although nothing is known about it from 
written sources. Only last summer there was found* on 
the west coast of Norway a seal, from the first half 
of the i4th century, bearing the legend " Sigillum 
Monasterii S. Augustini de Grimesbi," and represent- 
ing a saint king with an axe, who cannot very well be 
any other than Olave. 4 

The only church in England dedicated to St. Olave 
and not situated near the sea, is Fritwell in Oxford- 
shire. 5 It was built in the i2th century; but here, of 

1 F. Gunn, Illustrations of the Rood-screen at Barton-Turf, Norwich, 
1869. Kunst og Kultur, 1911, p. 50. 

1 Diplomatarium Norvegicum, XIX., 462. 

1 Biskupa Sogur, I., p. 357. (" Kynn " is certainly a mis-script 
for Lynn). 

* Now kept in the Public Record Office (Riksarkivet), Kristiania. 

6 North Oxfordshire Archaeological Society, Publications 1882 and 
1903. The only trace of Norse influence in the neighbourhood is a 
manor at Barford St. Michael, some miles farther west, also bearing 
the name of St. Olave. 

148 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

course, the worship may be older and date from before 
the Conquest. It is not easy to understand how Norse 
influence could reach Fritwell so late as the I2th 

In this little out-of-the-way village the worship of 
St. Olave has continued with incredible tenacity. In 
the old parochial register for November 2Oth, 1720, is 
found, among collections for the poor of the parish 
itself, a collection " upon St. Olave 's church near 
York," which gave a result of 2s. 6d. And still in our 
own time the day of St. Olave is observed in the parish 
as a great festival. The priest, dressed in a surplice with 
an embroidered modern image of St. Olave, and the 
parishioners walk in procession round the church; and 
the sermon of the day treats of the Norwegian saint. 
This custom is not as is the case, for instance, at 
Herringfleet newly introduced by people with literary 
education, but is genuinely old. This is proved, if 
there be any doubt, by the fact that the festival is held 
on the first Sunday after August 8th, not on the proper 
day of St. Olave, July 2Qth ; when the Gregorian 
calendar was introduced in England (1752), the 
conservative peasants of Fritwell would not submit to 
this alteration of the almanac, and kept the old day for 
the festival, even if it got a new name, August 8th 
instead of July 29th. 

This sketch of the worship of Norwegian saints in 
England can probably be supplemented. What we 
have set forth already will, however, suffice to show 
that in the matter of the relations between Norway and 
England it was not Norway alone which was the 
receiver during the i2th and I3th centuries, any more 
than it had been during the Qth and loth centuries. 


Bv PROFESSOR W. P. KER, V tee-President. 

THE glory of Iceland is lost at the death of Sturla 
the historian. This was not the very end of the 
great Icelandic work of prose history in the 
mother tongue, but the old spirit is gone; the true 
imaginative rendering of Icelandic and Norwegian life, 
the art of Snorri and Sturla, disappears at the union 
of Iceland and Norway. The decadence of Iceland is 
manifest in the failure of the great historic school ; the 
decadence of Norway also, when there were no more 
lives of kings written by Icelanders in the common 

But the dull times of Iceland, after the i3th century, 
ought not to be made out worse than they really were. 
Iceland ran through its good seasons and its fortune; 
but it never lost its distinctive character. It lost much; 
but it kept that pride and self-respect which is proved 
in the history of the language, and which saved Ice- 
land from the fate of Norway, the degradation and 
disuse of the native tongue. Historians sometimes 
speak as if the condition of Norway and Iceland through 
the bad centuries were much the same. No doubt there 
is a great resemblance. Both countries are altered for 
the worse through their relations with Denmark; both 
turn into dependencies. But even though Iceland often 
received harder treatment than Norway, as happened 
under the tyranny of the Danish trade, Iceland never 
gave way in spirit as Norway did. The Icelanders 
kept their language and their art of poetry. They were 
saved by their good grammar from the Norwegian 
lethargy. They maintained their self-consciousness 
over against the rest of the world ; a small community, 
not as large as Athens or Hampstead. Through the 

150 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

vicissitudes of a thousand years the Icelanders have 
not changed their minds with regard to the use of their 
minds; at any rate they have continued to believe that 
they were meant to live as intelligent beings. Also, 
from the conditions of their land and society, as well 
as from their own native disposition, they pay more 
attention to individual men than is common in other 
countries. This habit of thought, which is the source 
of the great historical art of Iceland, is not lost when 
the historical school is closed. The history of the 
Reformation in Iceland, and the life of Jon Arason, 
Bishop of H61ar, may show how little the essentials 
have changed in three hundred years from the time 
of the Sturlungs. It is true that the life of Bishop J6n 
is not written out full and fair like the life of Bishop 
Gudmund, three hundred years before. But the scat- 
tered notes and memoirs from which the story can be 
put together were made by Icelanders who had the 
same tastes, though not the same ability, as the earlier 
historians. Snorri and Sturla must have worked with 
similar notes, in preparation for their finished work. 
The records of the time of Jon Arason show that there 
was the same sort of interest in character and adven- 
tures as there was when the Sturlung memoirs were 

The history of the Reformation in Iceland is a drama 
of persons more than in other countries. The persons, 
it is true, cannot be compared for dignity, and hardly 
for richness of humour, with the principal authors and 
adversaries of the Reformation, with Luther or Knox, 
Henry VIII., or the Emperor Charles. But in Iceland, 
unlike the rest of Christendom, there is very little to be 
told that is not obviously dramatic; the dramatic, the 
personal values, are not obscured by general impersonal 
forces and movements ; the stage i-s compact and com- 
prehensible. With earlier affairs in Iceland, with the 
matter of the Sagas, it is often amusing and surprising 
to find how readily historical events seem to fall into 

Jon Arason. 151 

their place like things in a novel. One gets the same 
impression in the history of Jon Arason, even although 
the action was never fully represented in the old Ice- 
landic narrative way. The chief situations are intelli- 
gible and clear, just as they might be in a novel or a 
comedy. If one could imagine a chronicle of Barset, 
with the Reformation for its substance, instead of, e.g., 
the problem of Hiram's Hospital, one might get some- 
thing like the Icelandic scale and mode as observed in 
the life of Bishop Jon of Holar. It is tempting, though 
irrelevant, to consider how the Barchester characters 
might have displayed themselves if they had been 
transported to the Icelandic scene ; to think of Dean 
Arabin drawn into a raiding expedition by Archdeacon 
Grantly, against his better judgment, yet not unwill- 
ing; of Mrs. Proudie talking manfully and evangelic- 
ally to the invaders, while Mark Robarts and Bertie 
Stanhope were packing up the Bishop to carry him 
away. How the Slopes and Thumbles would have 
behaved there is no need to imagine, for the Icelandic 
record has preserved their ancestors undecayed and 
unmistakable. One of them did his best to edify Jon 
Arason on the way to the headsman's block. 

" When Bishop Jon was led out, there was a certain 
priest, Sir Svein, appointed to speak to him persua- 
sively. The Bishop, as he came forth from the choir, 
sought to do obeisance before an image of Mary ; but 
the priest bade him lay aside that superstition, and said 
(among other comforting words) : ' There is a life after 
this life, my lord ! ' But Bishop Jon turned sharply 
and said, ' I know that, Sveinki ! ' (Biskupa Sbgur, 

ii-, P- 353-) 

Political novels and plays are apt to fail through over- 
weight of political argument, or else, at the opposite 
extreme, because they make things too obviously super- 
ficial, too simple and easy. In Bjornson's political 
plays the questions often seem too trivial, the politicians 
not really dangerous. In Icelandic history the casual 

152 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

reader may often think that the interests are trifling, 
the values unduly heightened by chroniclers who do 
not know the world. The documents often confirm 
this view. There are extant from Jon Arason's time 
claims for damages suffered in certain raids which take 
up a considerable space in Icelandic history; a house- 
holder feels the loss, among other things, of a pepper- 
mill and a mustard-mill, and that is recorded. The 
great men, prelates and chiefs of Iceland, may seem on 
examination very much like the common people of the 
English border. " There are a thousand such else- 
where " in Liddesdale, Redesdale, and the Debatable 
Land. Kinmont Willie and the Laird's Wat might 
have been princes in Iceland. The great men of 
Iceland, are they not great through the emptiness of 
the region round them, the simplicity and inexperience 
of their countrymen ? So one is tempted to ask, and this 
sort of scepticism and depreciation leads of course to 
such ignoring of Iceland as is shown in the histories of 
Europe generally. 1 

This low opinion may be contradicted and proved 
unreasonable. Do not casual readers speak of the 
history of Attica in much the same way and with not 
much more consideration ?-' But it cannot be denied 
that the material weight of Iceland is small, that the 
greatest men are not rich men, that the interests are to 
all appearance domestic or parochial when compared 
with the fortunes of larger states. 

There are at least two modes of defence in answer 
to this. Material interests may be unimportant 
where a principle or idea is at work. Thus, 
returning to Barchester, we observe that the 
historian Trollope, in The Warden, has made 
the case of Hiram's Hospital into a parable or 

1 Cambridge Modern History, vol. x. index, " Iceland, constitution for, 
694 " : text p. 694, " Iceland received a Constitution." 

2 It is a pleasure here to remember Sir George Trevelyan's translation 
of Thucydides into the terms of Stirlingshire and Clackmannan, 

Jon Arason. 153 

allegory containing the whole of politics and the 
quintessence of public opinion. The argument of The 
Warden does not require a larger scale or a higher 
stake, any more than Euclid would be helped if you 
offered him triangles of gold and silver. There is 
sometimes this kind of moral in Icelandic history. 
Indeed, this seems to be the peculiar office of Iceland 
among othef nations. Iceland, again and again, is 
found to resemble an experimental table arranged by 
Destiny to work out certain political problems neatly, 
with not too many pieces in the game. So Iceland has 
been made to declare the true nature of early German 
civilisation ; so the life of Bishop Gudmund is a 
dramatic conflict of High Church zeal with steady 
respectable worldly tradition, and represents in a 
personal story the contemporary life of Christendom. 
So in the life of Jon Arason the Reformation is 
exhibited as a dramatic opposition of characters. 

But, taking the second mode of answer to those who 
depreciate and ignore, we may observe that the history 
of Iceland is not purely ideal or exemplary ; it is itself 
part of the history of Europe and contributes its own 
share of reality to the actual world. The life of Jon 
Arason may illustrate the course of the Reformation in 
Denmark and Norway, but it is also different from any- 
thing in those countries, and has much in it that was 
lacking there particularly some fortitude in opposition 
to the new doctrines and their advocates. The value 
of Jon Arason is not merely that his story brings out 
some common humanities and some common fashions 
of the time ; he is part of the life of Christendom as far 
as Allhallowtide of the year 1550, and what he does is 
done by no one else in Iceland, Norway, or Denmark. 

The Church in Iceland was not very well taken care 
of in the i5th century. The Bishops were mostly 
foreigners ; of many of them, including at least one 
Englishman, very little is known. One Bishop of 
Skalholt, described as Confessor of the King of 

154 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

Denmark, discovered that there was nothing to drink in 
Iceland except milk and water; therefore he made 
provision and obtained from Henry VI. of England a 
licence for two ship-captains to sail to Iceland with 
supplies. Before him in the same diocese there was a 
tyrannical Swedish bishop who had thirty unruly Irish- 
men in his retinue ; he was at last (in accordance with 
the popular will) tied up in a sack and drowned in 
Bruara. Which, however, was not the last of him, for 
in the very familiar manner of ghosts in Iceland, he 
" came again " (of course as a solid body), and gave 
some trouble before he would lie quiet (1433). 

It would have been a great misfortune for Iceland if 
the Reformation had come when there were no better 
Churchmen in the cathedrals than this Swedish bishop 
or the Danish royal chaplain who was so careful about 
his beer. But, as it fell out, the great debate was not 
left to be determined in Iceland by wholly external 
powers, by Luther or the King of Denmark. Some 
Icelanders very early began to think for themselves in 
a Lutheran way; and on the other side was J6n Arason. 
It is one of the fortunate things and one of the strange 
things in Icelandic history that at the time of the 
Reformation the bishop in the north was one of the 
greatest men of the time, and a man who recalled the 
greatness of the old days. Jon Arason, Bishop of 
Holar, was not like his predecessor, Bishop Gudmund, 
a great churchman with a consistent theory of the 
relations between church and laity. But he was a 
churchman of another old Icelandic sort, a great 
chieftain, a married man with a family, fond of power 
and wealth and glory, very closely resembling the great 
men of the Sturlung age. It was as if Kolbein 
Tumason or Sturla Sighvatsson had come back to life 
in Holy Orders. And this great man was not simply 
a worldly potentate with the dignity of a bishop ; he was 
the chief poet of his time, and his poems were religious. 
He does not represent any theory of the relations 

Jon Arason. 155 

between Church and State : he is not the successor of 
Thomas a Becket, or of St. Thorlac. But he represents 
better than anyone else the church of Iceland as it was 
for centuries from the time of the first conversion the 
rather easy-going but wholesome religion which in so 
many ways resembles the Church of England. 

Jon Arason 's poetry cannot be explained except to 
those who understand it already. Like all Icelandic 
poetry, its beauty is largely a beauty of form, and 
of the form it may be said that Jon Arason is a master 
of rhyming stanzas, apparently without much or any 
suggestion from foreign literature. He worked on the 
principles of Icelandic rhyming poetry, derived from 
the Latin rhyming poetry of the Middle Ages, and used 
those principles so as to make very beautiful stanzas in 
which the artifice is not so great as to hinder the free- 
dom of expression. One of his poems has had a strange 
fortune. It was very early taken up by the Faroese, 
and was used by them at sea for the good of their 
fishery "whale-verse" being a popular name for it. 1 

1 The Faroese version was edited in Aarb. Oldk., 1869, pp. 311-338, by 
R. Jensen. 

The first stanza is the proper 'hvalvers.'and the note on it is as follows : 
" This is what Lyngby quotes in the appendix to his Faroese ballads, 
the so-called 'whale-verse,' the only fragment of the poem which can 
be said to be generally known. The name comes from the belief that 
the singing of it had power to drive away the large whales, if there 
was danger from them to fishing-boats at sea (hvis man kom i hvaln0d 
ude paa havet "). 

Miss Elizabeth Taylor, who has a close acquaintance with life in the 
Faroes, points out that the virtue of the "whale-verse" comes from a 
popular rendering of kvolum (= pains of hell) as hvolttm (= whales; 
pronounced in the same way as the other word). The "whale-verse" 
is thus given, loc. cit. Ljomur Bis/tups Jons Arasonar. 

Hsegstur heilagur andi 

himna kongurinn sterki 

lovliga lit tu a meg, 

signauSr a sjogv og landi 

sannur i vilja og verki 

hoyr tu, eg heiti a teg ! 

ForSa tu macr fjandans pi'nu og diki, 

feikna kvolum ollum fra maer vi'ki, 

ma?r veit tu taS, Mariu sonurin rfki, 

maela eg kundi naka<\ sva trer liki ! 

156 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

The Reformation was established in Denmark by 
King Christian III., in his ordinance of 1538, which 
prescribed everything to the kingdom and the church, 
the King being himself the head. The name of 
"bishop" was disused, though the office was kept. 
Under the ordinance the king appointed " superin- 
tendents " for the various dioceses. These "superin- 
tendents " are the Protestant Lutheran bishops, and it 
may be observed that Bishop Gizur, the Protestant 
bishop of Skalholt, calls himself " superintendens, " 
though in Iceland the authority and name of " bishop " 
were too respectable to be supplanted by this new 
government description. 

The ordinance was imposed without difficulty in 
Denmark : the King was thinking of Denmark, and not 
particularly of Norway or Iceland, when the ordinance 
was granted. But Christian III. of Denmark held 
himself to be King of Norway also. There was some 
resistance to him, both to his title and his policy there ; 
Norway, however, had no real strength, and it is here 
that the difference in spirit between Norway and Iceland 
comes out most clearly. To the Catholic Archbishop, 
Olaf Engelbrektsson, in Norway, the Reformation was 
loathsome, and there seems to have been little regard 
for it among the people. But there was just as little 
effective liking for the old church, and the Archbishop 
of Nidaros could make no party of his own out of the 
Catholics of Norway. He had to leave the country, 
unheroically though not dishonourably (April, 1537), 
and the kingdom of Norway accepted the ordinance, 
keeping all its sympathies still for the old faith, and 
taking no interest in the teaching of Luther. 

The Lutheran ordinance of King Christian III. was 
imposed on Iceland also. It cannot be said that the 
people of Iceland showed themselves much more awake 
than the people of Norway to the meaning of the 
change, but there is a great difference between the two 
countries. Iceland being a small country as compared 

Jon Arason. 157 

with Norway is much more easily affected by the talent 
of any one of its members. New ideas run more easily 
over the land, and it happened that in Iceland both sides 
were much better represented than in Norway. The 
Protestant Reformation in Iceland was not merely a 
Lutheran ordinance imposed by a king. Although 
there was much dissatisfaction with the change, it can- 
not be said that the Reformation in Iceland was carried 
through without the general consent of the people. 
Icelandic history brings out very clearly the same 
unpleasant interests, particularly the appetite for church 
lands, as may be found in the history of the Reforma- 
tion in other countries. But there was also very early 
a movement for the translation of the Scriptures, and 
afterwards the honour of the Reformation was main- 
tained in Iceland by the great translator, Bishop 

Jon Arason was born in 1484; little is told of his early 
life. His father died, and Jon acted as steward for his 
mother at Laugaland (near Akreyrl) till he was 24. 
Then he took Holy Orders, and shortly afterwards was 
married in some form or other to his wife Helga : a 
contract recognised by Icelandic tradition, and not 
apparently at any time challenged on any ground either 
by Catholics or Protestants. He made two voyages to 
Norway for Bishop Gottskalk of Holar, and after the 
death of Gottskalk (1520) was elected bishop himself 
(1522) by all the priests with one dissentient. 

At that time Bishop Ogmund, of Skalholt, had just 
been consecrated, a man in some things resembling Jon 
Arason, and very well fitted to be his rival or his friend. 
At first he was a decided enemy. It is curious how just 
before the Reformation the "change of fashion" 
(siSaskipti), as it is called in Icelandic there should 
have been, after so many foreign bishops, a return to 
the old natural conditions, with two men in the two 
cathedrals so thoroughly like their ancestors. Ogmund 
was a tall stout gentleman, with a remarkable talent for 

158 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

strong language and little regard for his personal 
appearance, though much for his episcopal dignity and 
power. He was indeed a chieftain of the old school like 
J6n Arason, but without his wit and poetry. He tried 
at first to keep J6n Arason out of the bishopric of 
Holar; he and Jon met once in the old fashion at the 
Althing, each with his tail of fighting men, and there 
was likelihood of a battle. But peace was made by the 
intervention of the Abbots and other clergy, and there 
was no more trouble of that kind. 1 

The contention between the Bishops is told with some 
detail, and evidently with much enjoyment of the old 
fashioned tricks and stratagems. In that respect there 
was little change after five centuries. 

Generally the two Bishops behaved like heroes of the 
older Sagas, and made their fortunes in the old way 
by authority, maintenance, ingenious use of the law. 
There is material for the history of a law case in which 
Jon was concerned ; 2 the facts resemble those of the 
Sturlung time. He thinks of his sons in the same way 
as Sighvat Sturluson might ; the true meaning of 
heredity is proved when his son Ari is made Lawman. 
At the same time (in this also like the Sturlung house) 
he attends to the liberal arts; to his own poetry 
especially. He had no reputation for scholarship ; it 
was a common belief that he knew no Latin. The 
Reformation, it should be remembered, encouraged the 
growth of classical learning in Iceland ; the standard 
was raised after Bishop Jon's time. An interesting 
document is the Latin account of him written by a 
Protestant about 1600, pitying J6n for the want of 
proper Latin education in his youth. Adeo miserum 
est infelici temp ore natum esse. This author recognises 
very fully the native genius of J6n Arason and his 
accomplishment in Icelandic verse. 

1 Jon Egilson has a curious story of a wager of battle in the old place 
the island in Oxara between champions of the Bishops. See Diet, 
s.v. holmganga. 

2 Biskupa Sogur, ii., p. 430 sqq. 

Jon Arason. 159 

It is not quite easy to make out the extent of his 
learning. He was undoubtedly fond of books, and the 
first printer in Iceland, Sfra Jon Matthiasson the 
Swede, worked under his patronage. 1 The Reformers 
did much for the encouragement of study, but they had 
not to begin at the very beginning. 

J6n Arason does not appear very definitely in the 
earlier stages of the Reformation in Iceland. 

The Reformation touched the southern diocese first; 
the south was more exposed to innovation, as the 
Danish government house was at Bessastad ; and 
Bishop Ogmund of Skalholt had to meet the impinging 
forces alone. His tragedy is represented with some 
liveliness in the extant narratives. 

The time is 1539-1541 ; the chief personages are 
Bishop Ogmund; his Protestant successor Gizur 
Einarsson ; Didrik van Minden, a man from Hamburg, 
deputy of the Governor Claus van Marwitz ; Christopher 
Hvitfeldt, a Danish commissioner with a ship of war. 
The chief witnesses, besides original letters and other 
documents, are Sira Einar, a priest who was faithful to 
the Bishop, and his son Egil, then about 17 years old. 
Egil was alive, aged 70, in 1593, when one of the 
narratives was written (Bs. ii. 237-259). Another is the 
work of his son Jon, parson at Hreppholar in Arnes- 
sysla about 1600. ~ 

Bishop Ogmund was old and blind when the 
"change of manners" befel. He was riding with his 
attendants one sunny day when his sight went from 
him. He asked and was told that the sun was shining 
bright; then he said: "Farewell, world! long enough 
hast thou served me! " 

He had to find an assistant and successor; first he 
chose his sister's son Sigmund, but Sigmund died in 

i Biskupa Sogur, ii., p. 440 sqq. 

-Biskupa Annular Jons Egilsscnar, edited by Jon Sigurdsson in Safn til 
Sogu Islands, i., 29117. 

160 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

Norway not twenty days after his consecration (1537). l 
Then Bishop Ogmund, with the assent of the clergy, 
chose Gizur Einarsson to succeed him. This was the 
first Protestant Bishop in Iceland, and if he was not an 
absolute sneak, the witnesses (including himself) have 
done him great wrong. Bishop Ogmund was his 
patron from very early days, and Gizur made good use 
of his opportunities. He was a very able man, and 
the Bishop was right in thinking so. It is hard to 
discover how much the Bishop knew about Gizur's 
Protestant sympathies. There is no reason to doubt 
that Gizur was an earnest reformer. Like other men of 
the time, he had unpleasant ways of mixing his own 
profit with evangelical religion, but he seems to have 
obtained his religious principles through study, and not 
in a casual or superficial manner. He was associated 
with Odd Gottskalksson, the translator, and with other 
young Icelandic students who came under the influence 
of Luther. 

In 1539 Gizur sailed for Denmark as Bishop-elect of 
Skalholt ; and that same year the Reformation dis- 
played itself in a Danish attack on the island of Videy 
at Reykjavik, and in spoliation of the monastery there. 
The agent in this was Didrik van Minden ; fourteen 
men in an eight-oared boat were enough for the busi- 
ness. It seems a paltry thing, but, as usual, one must 
remember the Icelandic scale; the ruin of Videy was 
no less for Iceland than the ruin of the Charterhouse 
was for London. In Iceland the retribution was not 
slow. At the Althing, a few weeks later, all the Danes 
who had attacked the cloister were outlawed and their 

J Bs. ii. p. 269. Sigmund's daughter Katiin was wife of Egil above- 
mentioned, and mother of Sira Jon who wrote the Bishops' Annals. 
She was a child of nine, staying with her grandmother at Hjalli when 
her grand-uncle, Bishop Ogmund, was arrested by the Danes in 1541. 
She was keeping the Bishop's feet warm that morning, and saw what 
happened. Cf. Jon Egilsson, p. 73. Hinir . . . komu til Hjalla fyrir 
dagmal, og toku J>ar biskupinn i bafistofunni ; moSir min la a fotum 
hans og var niu vetra ; }>eir leiddu hann ut, &c. 

Jon Arason. 161 

lives forfeited. The Danes made very little of the 
Althing and its sentence, but here they were wrong. 
In August Didrik and his men went to Skalholt to bully 
the old Bishop, meaning to go further east and break 
up the great cloisters of Thykkvaba3 and Kirkjubae. 
Didrik blustered in his bad language, bawling at the 
" divelz blindi biskup," but that was the end of him. 
The countryside rose ; as he sat in the Bishop's parlour 
lie looked out of the window and asked, " What is the 
meaning of all those halbards?" The meaning was 
that the avengers had come for him ; he had to fight 
for his life; the man who killed him told Jon Egilsson 
all about it (op. cit., p. 70). This happened on St. 
Lawrence Day, August loth, 1539. It was followed 
by strong political action on the part of the Althing. 
Iceland was roused ; not only were Didrik and his men 
convicted after execution and declared outlaws (obota- 
menn), but a strong and clear description of Claus van 
Marwitz, the governor, his robberies and forgeries 
was sent from the Althing, 1540, to the King, with a 
petition for his removal and for the appointment of 
no one " who does not know or keep the law of the 
land, and is not of Danish tongue." The previous 
summer, after the death of Didrik, arrangements had 
been made for carrying on the government business 
through the sheriffs, without the governor. The Ice- 
landic case was upheld in Denmark ; Claus van Marwitz 
was sentenced by King and Council in 1542 to im- 
prisonment for life. He was released the year after. 

So far the people of Iceland were victorious ; Iceland 
had never spoken more clearly or with better right as 
a single community. But Bishop Ogmund had to meet 
a greater danger than the violence of Didrik and the 
other ruffians. His coadjutor, Gizur, then in Denmark, 
is said to have persuaded the King that Ogmund stood 
1 " Danish tongue " does not mean Danish ; it is the old name for the 
old Norse language. The ambiguity may have been calculated, so as 
not to offend the King. The Icelanders address the king as King of 
Norway and acknowledge the laws of Norway, not of Denmark. 


162 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

in the way of the Gospel. In the spring of 1541 he 
came out in a man-of-war, with Christopher Hvitfeldt, 
the commissioner, and set himself busily to collect as 
much as possible of Bishop Ogmund's goods. The 
story is pretty fully told from the report of eye-wit- 
nesses, and there is a letter of Gizur himself which 
shows how far any witness was from exaggerating. 

Bishop Ogmund was staying with his sister at Hjalli 
when the Danes came upon him. They roused him 
from his bed, and took him out to the courtyard in his 
long nightgown, but allowed him after that to put his 
clothes on ; then they collected as much as they could 
of his silver. His sister, Asdis, tried to keep hold of 
him, but they pulled her away, put the old Bishop on 
a horse and brought him off to the ship. How the 
Bishop's silver was taken is told particularly on very 
good authority. The Bishop promised to give up his 
silver, and sent for the priest Einar to fetch it. Einar 
(whose son Egil tells the story) went to see the Bishop 
on board the ship, got his letter and seal as warrant, 
and then started for Hjalli along with six Danes and 
Egil, his son. Asdis gave them the keys of the money 
chest, and they swept everything into a sack, dollars, 
nobles, Rhenish guldens, cups and pots and all, so 
that there was not a single " liibeck " left. They took 
even the rims of the drinking horns. Asdis claimed 
a brooch as her own, and it was given up to her. But 
the Bishop was not released. They repented about the 
brooch, and said they must have it too ; and the Bishop 
sent a letter to his sister, and the Danes took the letter, 
and brought the brooch away. But the Bishop was 
not allowed to land again ; he was taken to Denmark, 
and died there. King Christian was not well pleased 
at the work of his servants. 

J6n Egilsson, whose father and mother, Egil and 
Katrin, both saw something of this affair, was told 
by his grandfather, Einar, of a letter, written by 
some one to the Commissioner, " not to let the old fox 

Jon Arason. 163 

go"; at which Christopher Hvitfeldt shook his head, 
apparently not liking the style of his correspondent. 
The letter is extant, and the writer was the new Bishop 
Gizur. It is worth quoting in full, as a document of 
the Reformation. 1 It appears that to do things thor- 
oughly Gizur had gone with Claus van Marwitz (who 
had not yet been recalled) to another house of 
Ogmund's in Haukadal to make a search there. The 
letter is written in Low German, which may thus be 
translated : 

" IHS. Salutem per Christum. I do your wor- 
ship to know, good Christopher, that I have been with 
Claus van Marwitz in Haukadal, but there was nothing 
there of silver plate or any such stuff, nothing worth a 
mite, except one small silver cup about an ounce weight ; 
everything had been carried off before, as the old one 
can tell you if he will. And there was nothing here 
at all of any worth, but all cleared away together, as 
Claus can inform you. Further, good Christopher, see 
to it that you do not let the fox loose on land again, 
now that he is safe in your keeping, for if he were to 
land the people might raise an uproar. It is not advis- 
able that he should come to the Althing, since many 
of his adherents will be there. If possible, I will come 
to speak with you, three or four days before the 

" The blessing of Almighty God be with you eter- 
nally. Written in haste in Haukadal, the Eve of Whit- 
sunday, A.D. 1541. 

" Superintendens Schalholt. 

" To the honourable and discreet Christopher Hvit- 
feldt, &c., this letter with all speed. G." 

It is pleasant to believe, on the evidence of Sira 
Einar, that Christopher was disgusted when he read 
those evangelical sentences. The author of them,, it 

Printed in Safn, i., 128. 

164 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

should be remembered, was the scholar who translated 
the Protestant ordinance of 1538 from Latin into the 
vernacular tongue : his version has lately appeared, 
together with the Latin original, in the Diplomatarium 

Jon Arason, who had taken his full share in the 
condemnation of Claus van Marwitz, and who might 
have been expected to go further, was suddenly checked 
by the appearance of the Danish force and the removal 
of Bishop Ogmund. He seems to have felt that the 
proper course for him was to temporise, and if possible 
to fend off the detestable ordinance. He was on his 
way to the Althing when he heard of Ogmund's 
captivity ; he stopped at Kalmanstunga and went no 
further. On the ayth June he wrote forbidding all 
action against the diocese of Holar, and appealing to 
the Council of Norway. He also wrote in bolder terms 
to Christopher ; sorry that he had been prevented by his 
friends from coming to an interview ; he was ready to 
accept the ordinance if it were approved by the Catholic 
Church and the Chapter of Nidaros. The King 
summoned the two Icelandic Bishops to Copenhagen. 
Gizur went, of course ; Jon of Holar asked to be 
excused, and sent three proctors, his son Sigurd, Canon 
of Nidaros, being one (1542). They did homage to the 
King, and swore to the ordinance, and returned in 1543. 
Jon refused to be bound by their oath. But he did not 
attempt any active resistance, except in so far as he 
went on his way neglecting the new religion ; nusquam 
non more Papisiico infantum confirmationes missas 
inferias lustrationes et dedicationes celebravit aliaque 
ejus farinae postliminio introducere allaboravit, to quote 
the learned historian of the Church in Iceland. Jon did 
not quarrel openly with Gizur. The malignant may be 
sorry that he did not " teach " the superintendent of 
Skalholt, or at any rate ask him to consider it possible 
that he might be mistaken. 

But Jon Arason must not be misunderstood through 

Jon Arason. 165 

his heroic death or through his spiritual songs. He 
was not a blameless heroic martyr; he was a hero like 
the men of the heroic age, working with craft and 
policy, and sometimes with violence, and often for very 
worldly ends. His fall came about through his likeness 
to his ancestors; he made the fortune of his family by 
the methods known three hundred or five hundred years 
earlier, and he came to ruin through a mistake about the 
strength of a worldly adversary. The other " big 
buck " (to repeat the familiar Icelandic term), Dadi 
Gudmundsson, won the match, and did not spare his 
enemy when he had got him down. 

The story is as complicated as an}' of the feuds in 
Sturlunga. It is part of the great law 7 case of Teit of 
Glaumbas, which begins in 1523, and goes on for a 
century. It may be enough to say here that the Bishop 
and his sons took the old methods of getting their own ; 
particulars are extant of the effect of their raids, includ- 
ing the loss of the pepper-mill and the mustard-mill 
already mentioned. The monotonous history comes to 
a head in the rivalry between Bishop Jon and Dadi 

Dadi was one of the powerful men of the West, and 
has left his name in tradition. It may be taken perhaps 
as another proof of the Icelandic impartiality that 
tradition accepts with favour both the rivals, and has 
not made Dadi into a monster or a murderer on account 
of the beheading of Jon. 1 

Gizur Einarsson died in the Lent of 1548. At that 
time Bishop Jon's spirits were high, and he was enjoy- 
ing the old sport of raiding. He had let Gizur alone, 
for sufficient reasons. But the vacancy of the see was 
an opportunity not to be missed ; and when Martin, 
the brother-in-law of Dadi, appeared as the new 
Superintendent, the temptation was irresistible. 

Martin seems to have been an amiable man, without 
much distinction, except as a painter. He had been 

1 See Jon Arnason, f>j63sogur, ii., 121, 

1 66 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

engaged in trade before he took Orders. He was con- 
secrated by Palladius at Easter, 1549; having spent the 
winter in Copenhagen studying evangelical divinity 
with Dr. Hans Machabeus, i.e., John MacAlpine, 
some time Prior of the Black Friars in Perth, now a 
famous Professor of Theology in Denmark. Martin 
seems to have been treated in rather a condescending 
and patronising way by the great Protestant Theo- 
logians ; but he got his certificate in good time. 

The Protestant clergy in the diocese of Skalholt were 
fairly strong, and the Bishop of Holar had not made 
much way there when Martin arrived. In a raid to the 
West, along with his two sons Sira Bjorn and Ari the 
Lawman, he picked up the new Bishop of Skalholt and 
Parson Arne Arnorsson, who as officialis of Skalholt in 
the vacancy had not been pliable. He hoped also to 
get hold of Dadi, and there was a chance of success. 
But warning was given in time ; the story as told in one 
of the memoirs is not far below the level of the 
older Sagas. It describes the evening at Stadarstad, 
Martin's house on the south of the Snaefell promontory. 
As the Bishop's sons were sitting there, talking too 
freely about their plans, a man came in and sat near the 
door, no one paying him much attention, till as the 
dark drew on he stole away. Then he was missed; 
then it was asked who was the man sitting at the door 
saying nothing; and where had he gone? They looked 
for him and called ; but all they saw was a man riding a 
good black horse hard over the moor. He was one of 
Dadi's men, riding the famous horse of which other 
stories were told long after. Naturally, when the 
Bishop and his sons came to Dadi's house at Snoksdal,' 
their adversary was ready for them, and they had to be 
content with their clerical prisoners. Bishop Martin 
received a doubtful sort of hospitality during that 
winter; sometimes he was a guest at table; 1 some- 

1 A story told in the Annals of Bjorn of SkarSsa is translated C.P.B. 
ii., P- 387- 

Jon Arason. 167 

times he was set to beat stockfish. Parson Arne was 
for a time penned in a place of little ease; Bishop Jon 
made scoffing rhymes about him. 

Arne comes into a curious passage of the memoirs of 
Jon Egilsson. Bishop Jon Arason had excommuni- 
cated Dadi ; it happened that Parson Arne came to 
Snoksdal the very day that the curse was recited at 
H61ar. He and Dadi Gudmundsson were together. 

' Then there came so violent hiccup on Dadi that he 
was amazed : it was like as if the breath were going out 
of him. Dadi said then : 

' Of me now there is word 
Where I do not sit at board.' 

Arne answered : ' I will tell you how. There is 
word of you at Holar because Bishop J6n is now 
putting you to the ban.' Dadi Gudmundsson said: 
4 You shall have five hundred from me if you manage 
so that it shall not touch me.' Arne says : ' That will I 
not do for any money, however much, to put myself so 
in pawn.' But Dadi Gudmundsson kept on beseeching 
him, and Arne then says that he will make the venture 
' for our old acquaintance sake, but there will be a load 
to carry yet, I misdoubt me.' Then both of them went 
to the church, and Arne stayed without, and Dadi 
Gudmundsson went in. Arne bolted the door on 
him. Then he stayed long outside, and at last he 
opened the door, and called Dadi Gudmundsson to 
come out ; and there he saw that a shaggy year-old pony 
was running up and down by the side of a water as if 
he was mad. And at last the colt plunged head-first 
into a hole or pool, and ended there. Arne said : ' Now, 
friend Dadi Gudmundsson, there you can see what was 
intended for you.' ' 

In his turn. King Christian in Copenhagen was 
cursing the Bishop of Holar. (Monday after 
Scholastica, 1549; "he has treated us with disrespect, 
and not regarded our letters in no wise. Therefore we 

i68 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

outlaw the said Bishop John.") And on Tuesday after 
the Conversion of St. Paul, 1550, the King writes to 
the clergy of Holar to choose another Bishop. 

About the same time, the Protestant Doctor Palladius 
writes to Jon Arason a letter which deserves to be read 
for instruction in manners, hardly less than the letter 
of Gizur Einarsson already quoted. 

Palladius says that he is ready to explain the 
difference between the doctrines of Christ and the Pope, 
if only Jon will w r rite or signify his wishes to the 
Governor of Iceland. As a specimen, he offers the 
statement that Christ has not commanded such things 
as Papal consecrations, confirmations, masses and fasts. 
He sends the prayer of Manasses, in Danish, which Jon 
(if it please him) may use with weeping tears. " Send 
a Suffraganeus who may stay and winter here, and then 
go out to reform churches and monasteries; e.g., your 
son Sigurd, or Sir Olaf Hjaltason." 

"Put not your trust in the Pope; he died on St. 
Martin's Eve (f Paul III., 10 Nov., 1549). Perhaps 
you have already had news of that in Iceland ; for Hecla 
Fell often gives intimations of that nature." 

Bishop Jon seems to have passed the winter comfort- 
ably. His ruin came through overweening; his son Ari 
(generally called the Lawman) had done his best to 
keep him from more raiding ; his wife Helga thought 
poorly of her son Ari for this, and stirred him in the 
old-fashioned way with the present of a woman's skirt: 
so that Ari went along with his father and his brother 
Sira Bjorn in the last expedition. 

The scene of failure is one that has come into older 
history ; Saudafell, where Jon Arason and his sons were 
taken by Dadi Gudmundsson, had been once the house 
of Sturla Sighvatsson, and the raid on Saudafell by the 
sons of Thorvald, in January, 1229, when the master 
was away, is one of the memorable episodes in Stur- 
lunga. It stands rather high at the mouth of a valley 
looking North- West over the water, towards Hvamm 

Jon Arason. 169 

and other famous places, past the country of Laxdale. 
Snoksdal, the house of Dadi Gudmundsson, is close 
to it, below, and nearer to the sea. Saudafell had been 
one chief cause of contention between the Bishop and 
Dadi ; both had some sort of a claim to it. 

The Bishop went there in September, 1550, not as a 
raider, but to keep an engagement and attend a court. 
The Lawman Orm Sturluson had been asked, and had 
agreed, to hold a court at Saudafell to decide the 
differences between the parties. Jon and his sons came 
to Saudafell and stayed there some days. They did not 
understand their enemy; he was preparing a surprise, 
which was thoroughly successful. The Bishop and his 
two sons were taken ; their followers scattered, every 
man his own way, except two who stood fast. 

But then came perplexity for the victorious side. It 
was October; nothing could be settled till the following 
summer. The prisoners were to be kept till the 
Althing. Judgment was pronounced in a court held 
at Snoksdal, October 23, 1550. The Bishop and his 
sons had been outlawed by the King; the King had 
commanded Dadi to take them ; Christian, the deputy, 
was to keep them in custody at Skalholt, with the 
assistance of Martin, till the Althing in summer. But 
it was not easy to keep them safe ; the men of the North 
might be expected to come and rescue their Bishop. 
They were removed to Skalholt, as the court had 
decided. Christian, the Governor's deputy, who had 
come to Snoksdal at once after the capture, was always 
in consultation with Dadi. Then at last some one said 
the inevitable word: "Let the earth keep them." 
Bishop Jon Arason and Bjorn and Ari, his sons, were 
beheaded at Skalholt on the Friday after Hallowmas, 
November yth, 1550. 

How they bore themselves was clearly remembered. 
It has already been told how Jon Arason answered the 
poor well-meaning minister who warned him against 
idolatry, and spoke of a future life. It was long before 

170 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

the Reformers gave up their unnecessary consolations; 
Mary Queen of Scots had to endure the same sort of 

Ari was the most regretted of the three. " I went 
into this game against my will, and willingly I leave 

The Bishop remembered the poor of his diocese; he 
always gave away supplies in spring, and now sent a 
message to Holar to take care this should not be for- 
gotten. He also made an epigram : 

What is the world ? a bitter cheat, 
If Danes must sit on the judgment-seat, 
When I step forth my death to meet, 
And lay my head at the King's feet. 

The bodies of the three were at Skalholt all winter; 
in the spring of 1551 they were brought home to the 
North like the relics of martyrs. 

Vengeance had already been taken for them, and it 
was Jon's daughter Thorun who set it going. 

Among the men of the North who went South for the 
fishing that winter were some who meant to have the 
life of Christian, the Danish deputy. They got him at 
Kirkjubol, out at the end of Rosmhvalanes, and 
surrounded the house, wearing hoods and masks a 
modern precaution. Before breaking into the house 
they asked and got leave from the owner : " Yes, break 
away, if you pay for it after." Christian and some other 
Danes were killed. It was reported that they came 
back from their graves, which made it necessary to dig 
them up and cut their heads off, with further preventive 

Ships of war came out, too late ; and it is notable that 
the commander who was sent from Denmark to bring 
Bishop Jon Arason before King Christian III. was the 
same Kristoffer Trondsson (a great sea-captain in his 
day) who had enabled Archbishop Olaf Engelbrektsson 
of Nidaros to escape from Norway to the Netherlands, 
in April, 1537, out of the same King's danger. 

Jon Arason. 171 

The case against Jon Arason is found in the form of 
a speech supposed to have been delivered by Christian, 
the Danish deputy, in Skalholt, the day before the 
beheading of the Bishop and his sons. This is scarcely 
less remarkable than the letter of Gizur Einarsson as 
an historical document of the Reformation. The follow- 
ing is a good sample : 

" Likewise it is known to many gentlemen how 
Bishop John and his sons have set themselves to oppose 
the native people of this land, who have been at cost to 
venture over sea and salt water, sailing to transact their 
due business before our gracious lord the King, and 
many of them for their long voyage and their trouble 
have received letters from his Majesty, some upon 
monasteries, some upon royal benefices, which same 
letters of his Majesty might no longer avail or be made 
effective by no means', but as soon as they came here to 
Iceland Bishop John and his sons have made the King's 
letters null and void, and many a poor man has had his 
long journey for nothing and all in vain." 

On the other hand, it must be observed that with the 
exception of some contemporary rhymes upon his death 
none of the records which bring out the heroic character 
of Jon Arason were written by Catholics. The curious 
impartiality of the old Icelandic historians is still found 
working with regard to the Protestant Reformation, 
and it is Lutheran opinion in Iceland that thinks of 
J6n Arason as a martyr. 

W. P. KER. 

Additional Note. In Nordtsk Tidskrijt for Bok och Biblioteksvdsen I. 
i (1914) Isak Collijn of Stockholm reports the discovery and gives 
plates of 2 leaves of the lost Breviarium Nidrosiense, printed at Holar. 
I 534. for Bishop Jon Arason by Jon Mathiasson the Swede. 





ONE of the most striking features of present-day 
philological study in England and on the Con- 
tinent is the attention which is being paid to 
the history and development of our English place- 
names. These studies are of interest not only for the 
light they throw on certain philological questions, but 
also and for many this is their chief interest 
because of the help they give in the solution of certain 
questions of historical or social interest. Recent study 
of the place-names of Northumberland and Durham 
has suggested the possibility that the history of the 
place-names of these two counties may serve to throw 
some light, however dim, on the very difficult problem 
of the extent and character of the Scandinavian settle- 
ments in North-east England. Attacks by Vikings on 
Northern England began before the close of the eighth 
century, but it was not until after the middle of the 
ninth century that Northumbria fell definitely under 
their power. At first the invaders contented themselves 
with Northumbria south of the Tyne, but in 875 
Healfdene sailed up the Tyne and devastated the whole 
of Northern Northumbria. In the same year Northum- 
bria was divided among his followers, and they began 
to plough and cultivate it. His kingdom came to a 
violent end in 877, and then, after a six years' inter- 
regnum, the rule passed into the hands of Guthred- 

1 Note. The earlier part of this paper, so far as it deals with 
Northumberland, is an expansion of a paper contributed to Essays and 
Studies presented to William Ridgeway, Cambridge, 1913, pp. 306-14. 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 173 

Cnut, a prince of undoubted Scandinavian origin. 
Guthred-Cnut's kingdom extended over the whole of 
Northumbria, and he was followed by other princes 
Siefred and Sitric who were connected with the 
Scandinavian kingdom of Dublin. The authority of 
these kings centred at York, and it is probable that 
from 885 onwards the portion of Northumbria covered 
by the present county of Northumberland was once 
more under the rule of English earls, acknowledging 
Alfred's authority , and holding Hamburgh as their 
capital. In the reign of Edward the elder (c. 915) a 
fresh Norse invasion from Ireland took place under 
Ragnall. He invaded Northumberland, and was vic- 
torious in a battle at Corbridge-on-Tyne against Eadred 
of Bamburgh, and Constantine of Scotland. After 
his victory Ragnall advanced on York, which he took 
into his possession, and at the same time he divided 
the lands of St. Cuthbert, (the territory covering 
roughly the east and south portions of the county of 
Durham), between his two chief followers, Scula and 
Onlafbald. From this time (c. 921) down to the middle 
of the tenth century a succession of kings of Norse 
origin held sway in Northumbria, the last being Eric 
Blood-axe, finally expelled in 952 or 954. 

One of the many problems connected with the study 
of this Scandinavian kingdom of Northumbria is the 
real extent and character of the Norse and Danish 
settlements. We have seen that in 875 Healfdene is 
said to have divided Northumbria among his followers 
in the same way that East Anglia and Northern Mercia 
were portioned out among the Viking settlers there, 
but the fact that Ragnall, after his victories in 928, 
made an assignment of large portions of co. Durham, 
would suggest either that Northern Northumbria 
(Northumberland and Durham) had never been settled 
in the same way as Northumbria south of the Tees, 
or else that there had been some resurgence of 
the old Anglian element leading to the ousting of the 

174 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

invaders from their hastily acquired land, at least in 

An examination of the place-names of Northumbria 
supports this idea. It reveals wide differences in the 
proportionate distribution of place-names of Scandi- 
navian origin over Northumbria as a whole, and the 
general result of this study, it may be stated at the out- 
set, is to confirm the scanty evidence of history and 
compel us to draw a definite line of demarcation between 
the counties of Northumberland and Durham, on the 
one hand, and the remaining counties of the old king- 
dom on the other. Of the Scandinavian element in 
these other counties it is not my purpose to speak, 
except for purposes of comparison ; but the intensely 
Scandinavian character of the place-nomenclature of 
almost the whole of Yorkshire, of great portions of 
Lancashire, of Cumberland and Westmoreland, is 
evident even from the most cursory examination of the 
modern map, and is made yet more clear if we study 
works dealing with the actual history of these names, 
such as Prof. Wyld's book on the Place-names of 
Lancashire, and Prof. Moorman's on those of the West 
Riding, or even better, for our purpose, the recently 
published work of Dr. Lindkvist on M.E. Place-names 
of Scandinavian origin, of which the first part is all 
that has at present appeared. 

Let us now examine in detail the place-names of 
Northumberland and Durham, with a view to deter- 
mining the Scandinavian element. In estimating 
Scandinavian influence in place nomenclature two 
methods may be adopted : (i) the rough and ready one 
of studying the modern ordnance map, and attempting 
to form an immediate and (in more senses than one) 
superficial estimate of the number of names containing 
Scandinavian elements; (2) the more accurate and satis- 
factory one of collecting the M.E. forms of all the place- 
names of any particular district, establishing their 
history and development, and finally determining those 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 175 

which may definitely be stated to be of Scandinavian 
origin. In the case of the two counties at least which 
we have under present consideration both these methods 
have their value, for the counties of Northumberland 
and Durham stand somewhat apart from the rest of 
England in the character and extent of the documen- 
tary evidence which we have for the early forms of 
their place-names. Both alike have practically no 
charters belonging to pre-conquest times, a misfortune 
which they share, with but few- exceptions, with the 
whole of England north of the Humber, and neither 
county is mentioned in Domesday. Northumberland 
has several valuable cartularies belonging to post-con- 
quest times, and there are abundant references in the 
national records, but, unfortunately, there were large 
regalities within her borders where the king's writ 
seldom ran, and for these districts the evidence is at 
times scanty or insufficient. Norhamshire, Island- 
shire and Bedlingtonshire belonged to the Palatinate 
Bishopric of Durham, and though there are some valu- 
able early charters there are lamentable gaps. Still 
more unfortunate is the case of the large district of 
Hexhamshire, once a regality under the rule of the 
Archbishop of York. There the early records are very 
scarce, and it is the more to be regretted as, to judge 
from the present-day nomenclature, Scandinavian 
influence may at one time have been a good deal 
stronger here than in the rest of the county. 

County Durham itself is in even worse case. She 
has, of course, her Domesday Book, in the form of 
Boldon Book, but invaluable as that work is for the 
understanding of her social and economic history, it is 
of comparatively little use for our purpose; for though 
Boldon Book was compiled in the twelfth century there 
are no copies extant of earlier date than the fourteenth 
century, with the result that place-names are recorded 
in very late forms, for the transcribers have for the most 
part given them the forms current in their own time. 

176 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

There are some valuable eleventh and twelfth century 
charters belonging to the bishopric, and the records 
of Durham Priory are full and valuable, but a vast mass 
of early material concerned with the history of the 
Palatinate has disappeared through the vandalism of 
bishops and others, and we are, unfortunately, very 
scantily supplied with documentary evidence for those 
parts of county Durham in the extreme west, where, 
to judge from the present-day map, the influence was 
strongest. It is peculiarly advisable, therefore, in the 
case of these counties, and more so in Durham than 
in Northumberland, to endeavour to eke out the 
deficiencies of ancient material by a careful use of the 
modern ordnance map. 

In the case of each county we will deal first with the 
comparatively certain material to be found in docu- 
ments of the M.E. period. It should be added here 
that one or two names which have often been regarded 
as evidence of Scandinavian influence can no longer be 
used as such after examination of their M.E. forms. 
This applies especially to the two examples of beck 
which may be found in the county. The Wansbeck is 
in all early documents written as Wanespic, Wane- 
spike, or some kindred form, showing clearly that the 
modern spelling is due to folk, or antiquarian, influ- 
ence, while Bulbeck Common, above Blanchland, is so 
called from the great barony of Bulbeck, of which it 
once formed part. The first baron of Bulbeck took his 
title from Bolbec, a Norman village near the mouth of 
the Seine, and though the name is ultimately of Scandi- 
navian origin, it is, of course, no mark of Viking 
settlement in England. One other example of -beck 
may be found in the form Fullbek, in the Newminster 
Cartulary, but the name has disappeared from the 
modern map and is of little importance. The place- 
names will be grouped as far as possible according to 
their geographical distribution. The following is a list 
of the chief abbreviations used : 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 177 

Abbr. Placitorum abbreviatio. 

Ass. Assize Rolls for Northumberland (Surtees Soc.). 

Att. Test. Attestatio Test arum (v. F.P.D.). 

B.B. Boldon Book (Surtees Soc.). 

Bjorkman. Z.A.N. (Zur Altenglischen Namenkunde), N.P. (Nordische 

B.B. H. Black Book of Hexham (Surtees Soc.). 

B C.S. Birch, Cartularium Saxonicum. 

Brkb. Brinkburn Cartulary (Surtees Soc.). 

B.M. ('barters and Rolls in British Museum. 

Ch. Calendar of Charter Rolls. 

Cl. - Calendar of Close Rolls. 

D.B. Domesday Book. 

Durh. Acct. Rolls. (Surtees Soc.). 

D.S.T. Historiae Dunelmensis Scriptores Tres (Surtees Soc.). 

E.D.D. -English Dialect Dictionary. 

F.A. Feudal Aids. 

F.P.D. Feodarium Prioratns Dunelmensis (Surtees Soc.). 

Finch. Finchale Cartulary (Surtees Soc.). 

Gray. Archbishop Gray's Register (Surtees Soc.). 

H. Hodgson's Northumberland. 

Hatf. Bishop Hatfield's Survey (Surtees Soc.). 

H.P. Hexham Priory (Surtees Soc.). 

H.S.C. History of St. Cuthbert (v. S.D.). 

Inq. a.q.d. Inquisitiones ad quod damnum. 

Ipm. Calendar of Inquisitions post mottem. 

Iter. Her de Wark (Hartshorne's Feudal Antiquities). 

Lind. N ' orsk-islandska Dopnamn. 

Lindkvist. M.E. place-names of Scandinavian origin. 

Moorman. Place-names of the West Riding (Thoresby Soc.). 

N.E.D. New English Dictionary. 

Newm. Newminster Cartulary (Surtees Soc.). 

Orig. Rotulorum originalium abbreviatio. 

Pat. Calendar of Patent Rolls. 

Perc. Percy Cartulary (Surtees Soc.). 

Pipe. Pipe Rolls (Pipe Roll Society, Hodgson's Northumberland). 

Q.W. Phcita quo Warranto. 

R.B.E. Red Book of the Exchequer. 

R.C.Rotuli Cartarum. 

R.H. Rotuli Hundredorum. 

Reg. Bp. K. Register of Bishop Kellaw (v. R.P.D.). 

R.P.D. Registrum Palatinum Dunelmense, Rolls Series. 

Rygh. Indl. (Indledning til Norske Gaardnavne), G.P. (Gamle Per- 

sonnavne i Norske Gaardnavne), N.G. (Norske Gaardnavne). 
S.D. Simeon of Durham (Rolls Series). 
S.R. Subsidy Rolls (MS.). 

Swinb. Swinburn Charters (Hodgson's Northumberland). 
Tax. Taxatio Ecclesiastica. 
Testa. Testa de Neville. 

Ty. Tynemouth Cartulary (Gibson's Tynemouth). 
Wickwane. Abp. Wickwane's Register (Surtees Soc.). 
Wyld. Place-names of Lancashire. 


178 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

The basin of the Till and its tributaries : 
AKELD (Kirknewton). 1169 Pipe Achelda; 1176 Pipe 

Hak'elda; 1229 Pat. Akeld; 1255 Ass. Akil, Akyl, 

Akyld; 1216-1307 Testa Akild', Akyld' ; 1346, 1428 

F.A. Akyld. 

O.N. a, river, and kelda, well, spring. The second 
element is used in the Northumberland dialect of a 
marshy place, and also of the still part of a lake or 
river which has an oily smoothness (E.D.D.). Akeld 
lies on the edge of the well-marked valley of the Glen, 
and Akeld Steads lies low, by the river itself cf. 
Wyld, p. 363, and Keld in Swaledale (Yo.). The first 
element is found also in Aby (Lines.), " the -by on the 
Great Eau (or river)." The O.N. a is found as M.E. a, 
"stream or watercourse," in mediaeval documents 
(v. N.E.D.). 
COUPLAND (Kirknewton). 1216-1307 Testa Coupland; 

1255 Ass. Couplaund; 1323 Ipm. Coupelande; 

1346, 1450, F.A. Coupland. 

This name is explained by Lindkvist (pp. 145-6). It 
is the O.W.Sc. kaupa-land, land gained by purchase 
( = kaupa-jor$) opposed in a way to oftals-jorfi, an allo- 
dial estate. Only one example of its use is to be found 
in O.W.Scand., viz., in Biskopa Sogur. Lindkvist 
notes its occurrence here and in Copeland (Cumb.). It 
is also to be found in Copeland House (co. Durham) 
(v. infra), and probably in the Copeland Islands, off 
Belfast Lough. 
CROOKHAM (Ford). 1244 Ch. Crucum; 1254 Ipm. 

Crukum; 1273 R.H. Cruchu' ; 1304 Ch. Crukum; 

1340 Ch. Crocum; 1346, 1428 F.A. Crokome. 
" At the windings." The dat. pi. of O.N. krokr, a 
crook or winding. According to Rygh (Indl. p. 62) 
it often refers to the bends of a river, a sense which 
would suit Crookham well, for it stands on the banks 
of the Till, which takes an unusually tortuous course 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 179 

CROOKHOUSE (Kirknewton). 1323 Ipm. Le Croukes. 
The nom. pi. corresponding to the dat. pi. found in 
Crookham (v. supra). The name may have borne refer- 
ence to the winding course of the Bowmont Water at 
this point cf. Crookes (Moorman, p. 53). 
ILDERTON. 1189 Abbr. Hilderton; 1228 Att. Test. 
lldertone; 1255 Ass. Hild&rton, Ilderton; 1291 
Tax. Hilderton; 1311 Reg. Bp. K. Ildirtone ; 
1216-1307 Testa Hildirton; 1336 Ch. Ildretona, 
Hildreton; 1346 F.A. Hillerton, Ildreton, Hildre- 
ton-f 1428 F.A. Ilderton. 

The history of this name is given by Lindkvist (pp. 
10-11), viz., that it is the tun of a woman bearing the 
Scandinavian name Hild. Hilder- is the gen. form 
Hildar of this name. It is also found as the first ele- 
ment in Hinderwell (Yo.), earlier HUder-welle* and 
Hilderclay (Suff.). For the loss of initial h we may 
compare the history of Oakington (Cambs.). Skeat 
(Place-names of Cambridgeshire, p. 16) remarks that 
all the early spellings point to Hoeing- as the first 
element in this name. 

INGRAM. 1255 Ass. Angram; 1283 Ipm. Hangrham, 
Angeharm; 1291 Tax. Angerham; 1216-1307 Testa 
Angerham; 1306 R.P.D. Angirham; 1324 Ipm. 
Angerham; 1346 F.A. Angram; 1428 F.A. Ayn- 
gramme ; 1507 D.S.T. ccccvi. Yngram. 
For this name v. Angerton infra. It is very doubtful 
if this name shows Scandinavian influence. 

Bamburgh and district : 

LUCKER. 1167-9 Pipe Lucre; 1255 Ass. Lucre; 1288 
Ipm. Locre ; 1216-1307 Testa Lukre ; 1290 Abbr. 
Loker; 1307 Ch. Lucre; 1314 Ipm. Louker ; 1346 
F.A. Loker; 1379 Ipm. Loker<&. 

The second element is M.F. ker, " a marshy place " 
< O.N. kiarr, " ground of a swampy nature overgrown 
with brushwood." The first element may be O.N. 16, 
a sandpiper. The sandpiper specially frequents flat 

180 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

marshy places, such as are often found near the sea- 
shore. This description would suit the actual site of 

RENNINGTON. 1104-8 S.D. Reiningtun; 1175 Pipe 
Renninton; 1255 Ass. Renington; 1256 Ch. Renig- 
ton; 1216-1307 Testa Renigton; 1307 Ch. Rening- 
ton; 1314 Ipm. Renington. 

The ultimate history of this name would seem to be 
settled by the passage in Simeon of Durham (Vol. I., 
pp. 65, 80), which says that Franco, one of the bearers 
of the body of St. Cuthbert (c. 880) " pater erat Rein- 
gualdi, a quo ilia quam condiderat villa Reiningtun est 
appellata." The name Reingualdus is doubtless the 
Latinised form of the O.N. name Rqgnvaldr, borne by 
more than one Viking chieftain in England and Ire- 
land. The name Franco is certainly not of Scandi- 
navian origin, so that probably Reingualdus was 
Scandinavian only on his mother's side. The history 
of the form is difficult unless we assume that the name 
Regenw r eald or Rasgenald, the Anglicised form of 
O.N. Rqgnvaldr was in use also in the short form 
Regin or Rein, whence the patronymic Reining was 

HOWICK. 1230 Pat. Haivic ; 1278 Ass. Hawick. 

Haivyk; 1281 Wickwane Hoivyk' ; 1288 Ipm. 

Ho-wick; 1291 Tax. Hoisoyk; 1311 Reg. Bp. K. 

Houivyk; 1318 Inq. aqd. Howyke, Oivike ; 1340 

Pat. Hoivyke ; 1359 Cl. Houivyk; 1374; Durh. 

Acct. Rolls Hawyk; 1375 ib. Hoivik. 

This name is explained by Lindkvist (pp. 182-3) as 

from O.N. hdr, hor, "high," and vik, "creek, inlet, 

bay," and he compares it with the Norw. Haavik, 

which is found in several localities and has different 

origins, but refers sometimes to a shore skirted with 

high mountains or some (steep) acclivity on the shore. 

The early prevalence of forms w r ith o may have been 

helped by memories of O.E. hdh, M.E. ho(ive) "a 


Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 181 

DKNWICK. 1278 Ass. Dencivick; 1288 Ipm. Dene-wick, 

1216-1307 Testa Demayk; 1334 Pat. Denevvyk. 
The " wick " or dwelling-place in the valley (O.K. 
denu) or, possibly, of the Danes (O.K. Dend). 
BROTHERWICK. 1251 Ipm. Brothirwike; 1275 Ipm. 
Brothirivyk; 1216-1307 Testa Brother-wick; 1273 
R.H. Broyer-wyk. 

The " wick " or dwelling-place of a Scandinavian 
settler named Broftir. This is a well-established Norse 
and Danish personal name. The corresponding Eng- 
lish name, Broftir, is only found in the nth century, 
and may well be due to Scandinavian influence. 
Bjorkman (Z.A.X., p. 27) finds the same element in 
Brotherton (Yo.) and Brothertoft (Lines.). The name 
is common in Danish place-names. Nielsen (Old 
-danske Personnavne, p. 13), gives Brarup (earlier 
Brothcerthorp), Brotherstedt, Brodersby, Brorstrup. 

The basin of the Coquet and its tributaries : 
BRINKBURN. 1216-27 Newm. Brinkeburn; 1252 Ch. 

Brinckeburn ; 1259 Ch. Brinkeburn; 1255 Ass. 

Brinkeburn; 1313 R.P.D. Brenkeburn; 1507 

D.S.T. cccciv. Brenkeburn. 

" The place on the steep sloping banks of the burn," 
here the R. Coquet. It is doubtful if the element 
Brink- is necessarily evidence for Scandinavian influ- 
ence v. Brenkley infra. 
ROTHBURY. 1099-1128 H.P. Routhebiria; 1176 Pipe 

Robirei, Roberi; 1200 R.C. Robery ; 1203 R.C. 

Robery ; 1204 R.C. Rodbery ; 1210-2 R.B.E. 

Roburiam; 1212 R.C. Roubir ; 1219 Pat. Roobiry ; 

1228 Cl. Robir; 1228 Pat. Rothebiry ; 1248 Ipm. 

Roubiri; 1255 Ass. Roubir, Rowebyr ; 1258-9 

Newm. Routhbiry ; 1271 Ch. Rodebir, Robery; 

1291 Tax. Routhebyr; 1331 Perc. Routhcbiry ; 

1346 F.A. Rotnebury, Routhbery. 
The explanation of this name is given by Lindkvist 
(pp. 158-9). The first element is O.W.Sc. rowo>, "red," 

182 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

the diphthong aw being regularly represented in M.E. 
by ou ; the second element is the common suffix -bury. 
representing the dative singular of O.K. burg, " fort- 
ress, castle," etc., and the name of the place was 
originally "at the red fort." It is of hybrid formation. 
THROPTON (Rothbury). 1176 Pipe Tropton; 1248 Ipm. 

Tropton; 1216-1307 Testa Thropton; 1309 Ipm. 

Thropton; 1334 Perc. Thorp ton; 1346 F.A. 


" The farm by the thorp." O.E. and O.N. Porp- 
tun. Throp is a fairly common metathesised form of 
thorp, cf. Throp Hill (in Mitford), Dunthrop and 
Heythrop ((Oxf.). The same metathesis is found in 
Danish, cf. Hos-trup, Vam-drup. For the use of 
thorp in Northumberland v. infra, p. 
SKITTER (Rothbury). 1176 Pipe Snittera; 1175 Pipe 

S niter e ; 1248 Ipm. Snither ; 1278 Ass. Snytre, 

Snyter; 1309 Ipm. Snytir ; 1334 Perc. Snytir ; 1346 

F.A. Snytie ; 1439 Ipm. Snyter. 

For the Scandinavian origin of this element, which 
is found also in Snetterton (Norf.), Snitterby (Lines.), 
Snitterfield (Warw.), Snitterton (Derbys.), Snitterley 
(Norf.), v. Essays and Studies by members of the Eng- 
lish Association, Vol IV., p. 66. 
BICKERTON. 1245 Brkb. Bykerton; c. 1247 Newm. 

Bikerton ; 1266 Ass. Bikerton, Bykertone ; 1216- 

1307 Testa Bikerton; 1346 F.A. Bikerton; 1428 

F.A. Beke'rton. 

For the history of this name and its Scandinavian 
origin v. Essays and Studies, u.s., p. 59. 
PLAINFIELD. 1272 Newm. Flaynefeld. 

The first element is fairly certainly of Scandinavian 
origin, ay representing the common O.N. diphthong ei. 
It would seem to be the O.N. flcinn, " a pike, an arrow, 
or the fluke of an anchor " (= O.E. flan), and Flayne- 
feld may have meant originally a field whose shape 
suggested the fluke of an anchor. Less probably the 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names . 183 

first element may be an O.N. personal name. Fleinn 
was the name of a gth century skald (Lind. s.v.), and 
the name is also found as a nickname in Aeirikr flczin. 
Rygh (G.P., p. 272) finds this name also in the Norse 
place-name Flensiad. The modern name would seem to 
be due to the substitution of a form more easily capable 
of explanation. 

ROTHLEY. 1233-4 Pipe Rotheleg ; 1255 Ass. Rotheley, 
Rotheleg; 1271 Ch. Rotheley, Rothelay ; 1216- 
1307 Testa Rotheley; 1346 F.A. Rotheley. 
The first element in this name may be the same as 
that in Rothbury, but the absence of any M.E. spelling 
with ou makes such an etymology difficult of accept- 
ance. Otherwise it may be for O.K. Hroftan-leah, the 
meadow of a man Hrofta, that being a shortened or pet 
form of one of the numerous Old English names of 
which HroS- is the first element. A very doubtful 
example of Scandinavian influence. 

Basin of the Wansbeck and its tributaries : 

THROP HILL (Mitford). 1166 R.B.E. Trophil; 1273 
R.H. Troppil' ; 1216-1307 Testa Throphill; 1201 
Tax. Throphill. 
" The hill by the thorp." cf. Thropton supra. 

TRANWELL. 1267 Ipm. Trennewell; 1280 Ipm. Trane- 

well; 1310 Ch. Trail-well; 1316 Ipm. Tranwell ; 

1323 Ipm. Trenivell, Traneivell; 1356 Cl. Trane- 

well; 1386 Ipm. Trenivell ; 1428 F.A. T rents) ell. 

For the Scandinavian origin of this name v. Essays 

and vStudies, u.s., p. 68. 

ANGERTON (Hartburn). 1186 Pipe Angerton; 1261 

Ipm. Angerton; 1278 Ass. Angerton; 1216-1307 

Testa Ang'ton; 1312 Ipm. Angirton, Angerton; 

1314 Ipm. Angerton; 1346 F.A. Angerton. 

For the history of this name v. Essays and Studies, 

n.s., p. 58. It is very doubtful if it can be considered 

an example of Scandinavian influence. 

184 Saga-Book of the ] r iking Society. 

FISELBY (Hartington). 1319 Pat. Fiselby ; 1378 Ipm. 
Fisilby ; 1390 Ipm. Fisildene ; 1396 Ipm. Fesilby ; 
1418 Ipm. Fisilby. 

This is a place which has, unfortunately, disappeared 
entirely from the modern map. It seems to be a 
clear example of the well-known Scandinavian suffix 
-by, but if so it is unique in Northumberland, and it 
is impossible to explain the first element from anv 
known Scandinavian name. 

HAWICK (Kirkharle). 1284 Ipm. Haivik; 1216-1307 

Testa Hawic ; 1346 F.A. Hauivyk. 
The M.E. forms of Hawick are identical with the 
a-forms of Howick (v. supra). The second element here 
is probably M.E. wick, O.K. ivic, a dwelling-place, 
though it may possibly be the O.N. vik, which, accord- 
ing to Rygh (Indl., p. 55) is sometimes applied to a 
bend of a river, and was perhaps used generally in the 
sense of "curve," "angle" (cf. Lindkv., p. 145). 

CROOKDEAN (Kirkwhelpington). 1324 Ipm. Crokeden; 

1331 Ipm. Crokden. 

Probably the " valley of a Norseman named 
Krokr," though it may be " the valley with or by a 
crook, or twist " (cf. Crookham, supra). For the former 
cf. Wyld, pp. 104-5 (Crookells, Croston and Croxteth), 
Bjorkman, N.P., p. 89, and Z.A.N., p. 58. Cf. Crox- 
ton (Norf.), Croxby (Lines.), Croxton (Lines.), Croxton 

Basin of the Blyth and its tributaries : 

BRENKLEY (Ponteland). 1177 Pipe Brinchelaiva, 
Brinkelaiva; 1271 Ch. Brinkelawe ; 1216-1307 Testa 
Brinkelawe ; 1248 B.B.H. 115 Brinkdagh; 1346 
F.A. Brenklaive ; 1354 P ef c. Brenkelawe ; 1479 
B.B.H. Brenklaive. 
The element Brenk- or Brink- is of doubtful Scandi- 

navian origin, v. Essays and Studies, u.s., p. 62. 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Barnes, 185 

COWPEN (Horton). 1153-95 Brkb. Cupum ; a. 1197 
Newm. Cupum; 1250 Newm. Copoun; 1271 Ch. 
Copun; 1292 Q.W. Copun; 1295 Ty. xci. Cupun; 
1216-1307 Testa Cupum; 1315 Ch. Coupon; 1346 
F.A. Copon; 1380 Ipm. Coivpon; 1428 F.A. 
For the Scandinavian origin of this name i). Essays 

and Studies, u.s., p. 63. 

OUSTON (Stamfordham). 1255 Ass. Hulkeston, Ulkil- 

leston; 1346 F.A. Ulkeston. 

The tun of Ulkill, i.e., O.N. Ulfkell < Ulfketill (cf. 
Bjorkman, N.P., p. 168, and Rygh, G.P., p. 269). 
Cf. Ouston (co. Durham) infra. 

The Tyne Valley : 

BYKER. 1249-50 Pipe Byker; 1259 Ipm. Bicre ; 1255 
Ass. Bykere ; 1298 Ch. Biker; 1216-1307 Testa 
Byker, Biker; 1313 Ch. Byker; 1322 Inq. aqd. 
Biker; 1428 F.A. Byker. 
v. Essays and Studies, u.s., p. 59. 

WALKER. 1267 Ipm. Walkyr; 1216-1307 Testa 
Wautr-e'; 1316 Ipm. Walker; 1346 F.A. Walker, 
Walcar; 1428 F.A. Walker. 

' The low-lying marshy place by the wall." O.N. 
kjarr, " copse wood, brushwood, especially on swampy 
ground." Walker is on the low-lying ground which 
slopes down to the Tyne just south of the line of the 
Roman wall, a little west of its terminus at Wallsend. 1 

WHORLTON. 1323 Pat. Wherleton; 1324 Cl. Wherlton, 


For the history of this name, in which the first ele- 
ment is O.N. hvirfill, v. Essays and Studies, ti.s., p. 70. 

1 Falkmann (Ortnamnen i Shane) pp. 65 and 95, derives the place-name 
Vallkdrra from O.N. vollr (plain) and kiarr. This may possibly be the 
source of Walker. 

1 86 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

NAFFERTON (Ovingham). 1182 Pipe Nafferton ; 1212 
R.C. Naffertone ; 1221 Pat. Nafretun; 1225 Pat. 
Naffreton; 1253 Ch. Naffrcton; 1261 Ipm. Naffer- 
ton; 1263 Ipm. Natferton; 1289 Ipm. Natferton; 
1216-1307 Testa Natferton; 1280 Ipm. Nafferton. 
The explanation of this place-name, together with 
that of Nafferton (Yo.) is given by Lindkvist (pp. 
187-8) and accepted by Bjorkman (Z.A.N., p. 63), 
viz., that the first element is the O.W. Scand. name 
Ndttfari, night-traveller, found in the place-name Natt 
-faravik (Lind., s.v.), and also in the place-name Naffen- 
torp in Skane, of which the earlier form is Natfarce- 
thorp. The D.B. spelling of Nafferton in Yorkshire 
Nadfartone is nearest to the original form Ndttfaratun, 
except that t has become d, in accordance with a 
fairly common practice of A.N. scribes. One objection 
to this etymology however must be raised. There is a 
place Nafford in Worcestershire, of which the D.B. 
form is Nadford, and whose second element must be 
-ford. Nafferton might well be for Nafford-ton, in the 
same way that Brafferton (Durh.) goes back to Bradford- 
tuna ( = tun by the broad ford), Bretforton (Duignan, 
Worcestershire Place-names, s.n.) to D.B. Bratfortune, 
Swinnerton (Duignan, Staffordshire Place-names, s.n.) 
to Sivinforton (= the tun' by the swine-ford), Herving- 
ton (Duignan, Worcestershire Place-names, s.n.) to 
Herforton (= the tun by the army-ford). Nadford is 
difficult of explanation. It may be from O.K. Natan- 
ford, the ford of a man named Ndta (cf. B.C.S. .165, 
Natangrafas and Wyld, p. 193, for length of vowel), 
with shortening of vowel in first element of compound 
and voicing of t to d as above. 

North Tyne and its tributaries : 
HAINING (Redesdale). 1304 Pat. Haynyng; 1358 Ipm. 

This place-name is probably of Scandinavian origin. 
In M.E. hain is used in the sense of an enclosure or 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 187 

park, and Bjorkman, Scand. Loan-words (p. 242) con- 
nects it with O.W.Sc. hegna, to hedge or fence, O.Sw. 
hceghn, Swed. hagn, enclosure, fence or protection, 
Dan. hcgn, though he points out that as the word-stem 
from which it is formed was current in O.K. the word 
may possibly be of native formation. In the modern 
dialect of Northumberland and Durham the word hain- 
ing (v. E.D.D.) is used to denote " the preserving of 
grass for cattle, protected grass, any fenced field or 
enclosure, a separate place for cattle," and the first part 
of the word is undoubtedly the same as the M.E. hain. 
The suffix -ing may be the M.E. ing, meadow, grass- 
land, a word which is itself of Scandinavian origin, or 
it may be the verbal suffix -ing, the word meaning 
originally the action of hedging in or enclosing, and 
then being used of the enclosure itself, cf. the develop- 
ment of Riding, originally "a ridding or clearing," 
and then used of the actual space cleared. The word 
haining is found more than once in the place-names of 
both Northumberland and Durham. 1 

TOFT HOUSE (Rochester). 1397 P at - Toft. 

One of the three examples of toft found in North- 
umberland place-names, and the only one for which a 
M.E. form has been found. It is from O.W. Scand. 
toft, topt, " a piece of ground, messuage, homestead, 
a place marked out for a house or building " (cf. Bjork- 
man, Scand. Loan-words, p. 113). 

BINGFIELD. 1180 Pipe Bingefeld ; 1290 Abbr. Binge- 
feud; 1295 S.R. Bingefeld; 1298 B.B.H. 69 
Byngefeld; 1479 B.B.H. Byngfeld. 

For the history of this name, in which the first ele- 
ment is pretty certainly Scandinavian, v. Essays and 
Studies, u.s., p. 60. 

i Steenstrup, Indledende Studier over de trldstt Danske Stednavnes Bygning, 
p. 276, mentions place-names of the forms Hegtieden, Hegningtn, Heined, 
Heiningen and connects them with the O.Dan, word Hagnath used 
frequently in the laws of "enclosed " land as opposed to "common" 

i88 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

GUNNERTON. 1169-70 Pipe Gunivarton ; 1255. Ass. 

Cune-warton; 1269 Ipm. Goneiverton; 1270 Ipm. 

Gonewarton; 1216-1307 Testa Gunivarton; 1318 

Ipm. Gunwertoun; 1346 F.A. Gunwarton; 1479 

B.B.H. Gunwardton, Gonivarton. 
The element Gunner- in English place-names may 
go back to any one of the following Norse personal 
names (i) Gunnarr (m.), (2) Gunnvarfir (m.), or (3) 
Gunnvor (f.) The last two names appear in D.B. in 
the forms Gunivardus and Gunneuuare respectively 
(Bjorkman, N.P., pp. 54-9). The old forms of Gunner- 
ton suggest derivation from either of these last two 
names : if any stress may be laid on the isolated spell- 
ing, Gunivardton, the first of these two is the more 
likely, but it should be noted that the Norse name 
Gunnvarftr is very rare (Lind. s.v.) and Bjorkman 
(N.P., p. 59) suggests that possibly the English Gun- 
wardus is a hybrid formation, with the common English 
surfix -weard. The name Gunnvqr is found in Norse 
place-names (Rygh, G.P., pp. 106-7). 

Valley of the South Tyne : 

STONECROFT HOUSE (Newbrough). 1175-6 Pipe Stan- 
croft; 1 2th cent. B.B.H. 85 Stancroft; 1262 Ch. 
Staincroft; 1298 B.B.H. 109 Stayncroft; 1325 Ipm. 
Stayncroft; 1326 Ipm. Staincroft; 1327 Orig. 

"The croft by some well-known stone," or "the 
stony croft." Lindkvist (p. 90) notes two forms only 
those of 1262 and 1298 and suggests that the first ele- 
ment is O.N. steinn, " a stone or rock." The forms 
given above would tend to show that the name was 
originally genuinely O.E., with stan as the first ele- 
ment, which should have given Northern English 
Stancroft. During the M.E. period substitution of the 
form Stain or Stayn, derived from the O.N., took place, 
under the influence of the numerous place-names with 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 189 

forms like Stainton. In modern English the Northern 

form Stan- has been replaced by standard English 


HENSHAW (Haltwhistle). i2th cent. B.B.H. 85 

Hedeneshalch ; 1262 Ch. Hethingisalt ; 1279 Iter. 

Heinzhalu; 1299 Cal. Sc. Hethenhalc ; 1298 B.B.H. 

113 Hetheneshalgh; 1316 Ipm. Hethyneshalch; 

1326 Ipm. Henneshalgh ; 1328 Ipm. Hethynsalgh; 

1479 B.B.H. Hennishalgh. 

The history of this name is the same as that of the 
Yorkshire Hensall (Moorman, p. 96). The second ele- 
ment is the O.E. healh, a corner of land. The first 
element is explained by Moorman as O.E. hceSenes, 
and the whole name as the " heathen's corner," that is 
some settlement made by a Dane singled out by his 
Christian neighbours because of his heathen faith. 
Bjorkman (Z.A.N., p. 45) suggests, with more proba- 
bility, that the first element is the common Old Norse 
name Heftinn (cf. Bjorkman, N.P., p. 66). This is 
very frequently found in Old Norse place-names 
(Rygh, G.P., pp. 120-1) with the same contracted form 
as in the English name. 

OUSTON (Whitfield). 1258 H. 2, 3, 59 n. i. Vlueston; 

1279 Iter. Ulvestona. 

The tun of a man named Ulf < O.N. Ulfr (= O.E. 
Wulf). Oulston (Yo.) has the same origin. Ouston 
in Leicestershire is from earlier Osulveston, i.e., the 
tun of Oswulf, a genuine English name. 
FEATHERSTONE. c. 1215 B.B.H. 89 Fetherstanhalcht ; 
1222 Cal. Sc. Ferstonehalc ; 1255 Ass. Fetherstone- 
laive; 1278 Ass. Fcrstanhallu ; 1346 F. A. Fether- 
stanehalgh; 1428 F.A. Fetherstanehaugh ; 1479 
B.B.H. F ether stanhalgh. 

The place-name Featherstone is found in Stafford- 
shire and also in Yorkshire. The forms of the Staffs, 
place name are 994 Featherstan, D.B. Ferdestan, 1271 
Fethereston, and Duignan (p. 60) suggests that the 

igo Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

first element is the personal name Feader, the name of 
a huscarl of Harthacnut, slain at Worcester in 1014. 
If so, the name is probably of Scandinavian origin, 
corresponding to O.Sw. Fadhir, O.Dan. Fathir. The 
name Fafiir is of fictitious origin in O.N. (Bjo., N.P., 
p. 38). It occurs in D.B. as Fader, and is found in 
Danish place-names, e.g., Fatherstorp, Faderstrup 
(Nielsen, Olddanske Person-navne, p. 24). Moorman 
(p. 71) accepts this explanation for the Yorkshire place- 
name, whose early forms are D.B. Fredestan, Ferestane, 
1 122 Fedrestana, 1166 Fetherstan, and Wyld (pp. 124-5) 
inclines to the same solution for the first element in 
Featherstall (Lanes.). 
KELLAH (Featherstone). 1279 Iter. Kellaiv ; 1479 

B.B.H. Kellaw, Kellone. 

The first element is possibly a shortened form of the 
Old Norse name Ketill. This form is found in Kels- 
daile (Lines.) (Lindkv., p. 33), in Kelby (Lines., D.B., 
Chelebi), Kelsey (Lines., Lines. Survey, Chelesei), 
Kelsale (Suff., F.A., Keleshale), possibly in Kelling 
(Norf., D.B., Kellinga). A possible alternative 
explanation is that given by Moorman (p. in) in 
explaining Kelbrook, viz., that the first element is O.N. 
kelda, a spring or well, which survives in modern 
northern dialects as keld or hell. Rygh (G.P., p. 158) 
notes the same possible alternatives in the explanation 
of some Norwegian place-names. 1 
KNARESDALE. 1236-45 Swinb. Cnaresdale ; 1255 Ass. 

Gnaresdale ; 1266 Pipe Cnaresdale; 1291 Tax. 

Knar es dale ; 1306 R.P.D. Knar es dale ; 1325 Ipm. 


Hodgson (II., 3, 78) says that the place " has . . . 
the name from the Knar, a rough mountain torrent, 
which intersects the western portion of it from west 
to east." The torrent, however, is not the Knar but 

1 Since writing the above I find that Kelloe (co. Durham), whose early 
forms are for the most part identical with those of Kellah has a i2th 
cent, form Celflawe = calf-hill. Possibly that is the origin of Kellah also. 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Barnes. 191 

the Knar Burn, and that would seem to take its name 
from Knar farm on its banks. The name is probably 
of Scandinavian origin Knardal and Knarredalen 
being of frequent occurrence in Norway (Rygh., G.P., 
pp. 162-3, but Rygh is unable to explain their origin. 
It is difficult to explain the first element as a personal 
name, as that would not explain the neighbouring 
Knar, and it is clearly not the same as in Knares- 
borough (Moorman, p. 118), for there is no form in d 
such as Cnardesburc which would allow of its connexion 
with O.K. Cenward. Rygh (X.G. I., 199) in comment- 
ing on the Norwegian place-names Knarberg, Knarlag, 
Knarvik, etc., suggests that the first element may be 
O.N. fengrr, a large kind of ship, also used apparently 
of a piece of land or hill of that shape. 

WHITWHAM (Knaresdale). 1316 Ipm. Le Whitivhom: 
1344 Cl. Wytquam; 1364 Ipm. Whitwham ; 1392 
Ipm. Wytwam. 
11 White valley." O.N. hvammr, used according to 

Rygh (Indl., p. 57) of a short valley or depression, 

surrounded by high ground, but in such a way that 

there is an opening on one of the sides. 

Derwent Valley : 

ESPER SHIELDS. 1268. Ipm. Esperscheles. 

The first element in this name may be the same as 
that found in the Norwegian Espervik, which Rygh 
explains as being an old genitive of O.N. qsp, an 
aspen-tree. If so, it means the " shiels of (or by) the 
aspen-tree." It might also be O.N. aspir, pi. of <$sp, 
with late substitution of the ordinary Northumbrian 
esp (< O.K. cespe) for Scandinavian asp. In that case 
it means " the shiels by the aspen-trees." There is a 
place in co. Durham called Esperley, of which an early 
form (1230) is Esperdcslegh. The first element here is 
apparently a personal name Esperd, otherwise un- 
known, probably standing for earlier *Aesp~heard (cf. 

192 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

Aesc-heard). Esperscheles may be for earlier Esperdes- 
scheles, with loss of unstressed syllable and of d from 
the consonant group dsch. If so, it is not an example 
of Scandinavian influence. 

WASKERLEY (Shotley). 1262 Ipm. Waskerley; 1292 

Q.W. Waskerleye; 1312 Q.W. Waskreley. 
See Essays and Studies, u.s., p. 69. 

Hexhamshire : 

DOTLAND. 1154-67, Richard of Hexham, Dotoland; 
1226 B.B.H. 93 Doteland; 1287 B.B.H. 104 Dottc- 
land; 1355 B.B.H. 140 Dodland; 1479 B.B.H. 

The first element may be the Scandinavian woman's 
name Dotta, which is found independently (Lind., s.v.) 
and also in several place-names (c/. Rygh, G.P., 58-9). 
The usual spelling with single t may, however, point 
rather to the name Dot or Dotus, found in D.B., which 
Bjorkman (Z.A.N., p. 29) attempts to explain. He 
compares the O.Sw. place-name Dotabotha, possibly 
going back to a name *Dote. There is also an Old 
Swedish and Old Danish woman's name Dota. Bjork- 
man suggests, as an alternative explanation, that it 
may be originally a nickname, perhaps given with the 
meaning of the Norwegian dialectal dote, viz., a dull- 
witted person. 

ESHELLS. c. 1160 Gray 275 n,Eskeinggeseles ; c. 1225 
B.B.H. 90 Eskilescales, Eskingseles ; 1226 B.B.H. 
94 Eskinschell. 

The second element in this name is the common 
Northumbrian shiels, " shelters, sheds for summer pas- 
turage." The form -scales shows the influence of the 
corresponding Scandinavian word scales (O.N. skdli, a 
hut). The correct form of the first element it is difficult 
to determine. The only theory which could possibly ex- 
plain all the forms alike would be that which said that 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 193 

the first element is the O.X. personal name Asketill. 
This is found in English in the form Askill, Askell or 
Eskill. Side by side with this there is a well-established 
form, Asketinus, in M.E. documents (v. Bjorkman, 
N.P., p. 17). This may. well have been shortened to 
Askin or Eskin. 1 The name would then have been the 
" shiels " or " scales " belonging to Asketill or Aske- 
tin. Esking- might then be a mistake for Eskin-. 
the unfamiliar suffix -in being replaced by the patro- 
nymic -ing. Another possibility is to take Esking- as a 
compound of O.X. eski, ash-tree, and eng, an " ing," 
grassland. Esking- would then mean the " grass-land 
with ash-trees on it." Esking would in M.E. place- 
names often be written Eskin. The form Eskil- must 
then be explained as due to the common mistake of 
anticipating the / which is to come later in the word. 

In various parts of the country. 
NEWBIGGIN BY THE SEA. 1268 Ipm. Neubigging. 
XEWBIGGIN BY BLANCHLAND. 1262 Ipm. Neubiggyng. 

XEWBIGGIN BY NORHAM. i4th cent. B.B. Neivbiginga 
B. Newburga, C. Newbinga). 


XEWBIGGIN HALL (Kenton). 1216-1307 Testa. Neu- 


The " new building." O.xY.Sc. bygging, a build- 
ing, M.E. bigginge, and X.E. dialectal English 
biggin(g] (Bjorkman, Scand. Loan-Words, pp. 32-3). 
Considering the comparative rarity of place-names in 
Xorthumberland which are of Scandinavian origin, it 
is remarkable to find so many examples of the name 
Xewbiggin, which is of somwhat infrequent occurrence 
in counties with a much larger proportion of place- 
names of Scandinavian origin. 

1 The O.Dan, name Eskin, (Nielsen, Olddamhe Personnavne) , p. 22 may 
be that same name. 

1 94 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

In summarising the evidence for Scandinavian settle- 
ments in Northumberland to be drawn from the place- 
names found in M.E. documents we may note the 
following points : 

(i) That there are very few; examples in this county 
of those place-name suffixes most commonly associated 
with Scandinavian settlements. There is no -thivaite, 
-lund, -'with, -beck, -holm or -garth, only one -toft, 
dating from the i4th century, and a single example of 
-by, not to be found on the present-day map. There 
are, however, a considerable number of place-names in 
-ker, and the name Neivbiggin is of remarkably fre- 
quent occurrence. Indeed, there are more Newbiggins 
in Northumberland than in any other English county. 
The absence of place-names in -garth, -thivaite, -toft, 
-by would seem to indicate that there can never at any 
time have been any regular settlement of the whole dis- 
trict, any division of the whole territory among an 
organised band of settlers. The prevalence of -bigging 
might at first sight seem to contradict this idea, but 
the word biggin is in common dialectal use in North- 
umberland for a building, and it is perhaps significant 
that all the biggins 'are labelled " new." The majority 
of the place-names of Scandinavian origin either con- 
tain some personal name of Norse origin or they contain 
some Norse element commonly found in the local 
dialect. This latter statement is true of those contain- 
ing held, crook, carr, flat, bing, haining, biggin. 
Indeed, one noticeable feature of the Northumbrian 
dialect is that it contains a far larger proportion of 
Scandinavian words than the evidence of either history 
or archaeology would lead us to expect, and it is to be 
suspected that a good many of them are of compara- 
tively recent importation into that district, coming from 
districts to the west and south where Scandinavian 
influence is stronger. 

(2) That the settlements are rather markedly confined 
to the river-valleys and to the immediate neighbourhood 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 195 

of the coast, a distribution very different from that in 
the Danelagh generally, and pointing again to isolated 
settlements rather than to any regular partition of the 
whole area. 

The modern map yields some few additional points 
of interest. Along the coast we have a series of skerrs 
or rocky islets which must owe their name to O.N. 
skicer, "an isolated rock"; near to Long Houghton 
there is a stretch of rock bearing the curious name 
Bondi Carr. The second element is Celtic, but the first 
looks as if it might possibly be the familiar bondi, " a 
peasant or farmer." Down by the coast at Wark worth 
there is a level stretch known as the Skaith (O.X. 
skei<5, with various meanings, cf. Wickham Skaith, 
Suff.), and near to Monkseaton there is a small island, 
now called St. Mary's Island, or Bait Island, of which 
the earlier name (i6th cent.) was St. Helen's Baits. 
This must certainly be connected with O.N. belt : if it 
is used in the sense of " fish-bait " the plural is 
strange, if, on the other hand, it means " pasturage," 
the name can only have been given in irony, for St. 
Mary's Island is nothing but a stretch of barren rocks. 
These names do not point so much to settlements as to 
the influence of Scandinavian seafarers, and it is worth 
noting in this connexion that there is a tradition of a 
considerable Scandinavian settlement at Tynemouth, a 
tradition which is to some extent borne out by the 
evidence of personal names occurring in mediaeval 
documents relating to that town. 

Inland we find a few more Xeivbiggins, and one or 
two Holmes, but it should be pointed out that it is not 
always certain that holm may not be a dialectal form 
of hollin or holly. The element Kip, found more than 
once in such names as Kip hill, Kiplaiv, would seem to- 
be the dialectal kip, "a large overgrown calf," which 
must itself be connected with O.Dan, kip (Kalkar, s.v.) 
and Sw. kibb (Rietz., s.v.}, used with the same mean- 
ing. Silliwray, near Langley, probably contains O.N. 

196 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

vrd, "a corner," and means "the corner where the 
willows grow." Carlcroft in Ahvinton is noteworthy 
because there are no Carltons in the county (cf. Charl- 
ton in Tynedale and Charlton near Hamburgh) while 
Gair Shiel in Hexhamshire contains the common dia- 
lectal word gair, meaning a triangular piece of land, 
from O.N. geir. In the high lands to the west and 
south of the county fell, grain and sike are in regular 
use, and except for the absence of becks, place-nomen- 
clature is much the same on either side of the Pennine 

In turning to county Durham it will be well, as 
before, to deal first with those names found in medieval 
documents. The names are arranged in alphabetical 

AISLABY-ON-TEES. 1225-9 Att. Test. Askelby ; 1311 
R.P.D. Aselackeby ; 1313 R.P.D. Aslakeby ; 1314 
Reg. Bp. K. Aslagby ; 1344 R.P.D. Aslagby, 

The suffix -by is the common Scandinavian termina- 
tion. If the first form is not a metathetical spelling 
due to the scribe, the original name was the by of 
Askell or Asketill (cf. Rygh, G.P., p. 17, Bjorkman, 
N.P., pp. 16-20). The second form points to the name 
Aslakr (cf. O.K. Oslac] as the, first element, with a 
tendency to voice the k before following b (cf. Rygh, 
G.P., p. 17, Bjorkman, N.P., p. 20), cf. Aslacton, 
Norf. (D.B. Aslaketuna), Aslackby, Lines. (D.B. 

AMERSTON HALL (nr. Embleton). 1320 Cl. Aymunde- 


The tun or farmstead of a man bearing the Norse 
name Eymundr, later Emundr (Rygh, G.P., p. 65), cf. 
Amotherby (Yo.), of which an earlier form is Aymun- 
derby. The rs in the modern form may be due to a 
confusion of the genuine Norse gen. Eymundar found 
in Amotherby with the anglicised gen. Aymundes. 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 197 

BLAKESTON HILL (Norton). 1099-1128 D.S.T. xxx. 
Bleikestuna; 1100-35 F.P.D. n. Bleichestona; 1203 
R.C. Blake stone ; 1300 Ch. Blaicheston; 1335 Ch. 
Blakeston; 1345 R.P.D. Blaykeston. 
The above spellings leave no doubt that the first ele- 
ment is the O.N. bleikr, pale. This is not recorded 
as an independent name, but is common as a nickname, 
and has maintained itself in the English personal name 
Blake. The name means the farmstead of a man named 
or nicknamed Bleikr. Lindkvist (p. 25) notes the name 
of a person called Alanus Bleik in the Coucher Book of 
Selby Abbey (i3th cent.?). 

BRANCEPETH. 1085 D.S.T. xx. Brentespethe; 1131 
F.P.D. n. Brauncepath; 1155 F.P.D. n. Brandes- 
pethe; 1254 D.S.T. Ixxxiii. Branspath; 1311 
R.P.D. Braundespath ; 1316 R.P.D. Braunce- 

The " peth " or path of a man named Brand. The 
name is probably of Scandinavian origin, for beyond 
one occurrence in a Saxon genealogy the name is not 
found in Old English documents before the nth cen- 
tury, whereas the name Brandr was very common in 
Iceland and other Scandinavian lands. The distribu- 
tion of English place-names containing this element 
also favours their Scandinavian origin. Branceholm 
and Brauncedale (Yo.), Branston (Lines.), Brandiston 
(Norf.), Bransby and Brauncewell (Lines). See also 
Bjorkman, Z.A.N., p. 27. 
BRUNTOFT (nr. Wynyard). 1304 Cl. Bruntoft. 

The second element is the common Scandinavian 
suffix meaning a clearing : the first is probably the 
word burn, a stream. This often undergoes meta- 
thesis in compounds, cf. Brunton (in Embleton) and 
Brunton (nr. Newcastle) in Northumberland, of which 
the earlier form is Burneton. Lindkvist (p. 214) 
favours the derivation from O.W.Scand. brunnr, a 
spring or fountain, but the example of Brunton makes 
this unnecessary. 

198 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

CARLBURY (Coniscliffe) 1271 Ch. Carlesburi; 1313 

R.P.D. Carlebury ; 1340 R.P.D. Carlbury. 
The form is from the dative of O.K. Ceorles burh or 
Ceorla burh, the burh of the ceorl or ceorls, with sub- 
stitution of Scandinavian Carl (O.N. karlr, a man) for 
English ceorl. cf. Charlbury (Oxf.). 

CARLTON. c. 1025 H.S.C. Carltun; 1307 R.P.D. 


The tun of the Scandinavian carls : the equivalent 
of the native English Charlton. The English and 
Scandinavian forms are both widely distributed in 
England. The Scandinavian forms are specially fre- 
quent in Lincolnshire and Norfolk. 

CLAXTON GRANGE (nr. Greatham). 1091 F.P.D. 

Ivxxxii. Clackestona; 1312 Reg. Bp. K. Claxton. 
The iun of a man named Klakkr. The name is of 
common occurrence in place-names in the Danelagh. 
cf. Claxton (Norf., D.B., Clakestona), Long Clawson 
(Leic., D.B., Clachestane). 

CONISCLIFFE. c. 1035 H.S.C. Cingceslife ; 1263 R.C. 
Cunesclivc* ; 1271 Ch. Cunesclive ; 1306 Cl. Cones- 
dive; 1313 Reg. Bp. K. Conysclive 1336 Ipm. 
Consclyf ; 1345 R.P.D. Conesclyf ; 1507 D.S.T. 
ccccv. Cunyngsclyf. 

" King's cliff." This name would seem to have been 
originally purely English, to judge from the form found 
in the History of St. Cuthbert O.E. c(yn)inges clif, 
but the later spellings point to the influence of O.N. 
konungr ; cf. the history of Conisborough (Moorman, 
p. 49), Coniston (ib. pp. 49 and 50), Conishead and 
Coniston (Wyld, pp. 98-9), Conisholme (Lines., D.B., 

COPELAND HOUSE (West Auckland). 1104-8 S.D. Cop- 
land; 1313 R.P.D. Coupland; 1340 R.P.D. Coupe- 
For the history of this name v. Coupland (Nthb.) 


Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 199 

COWPEN BEWLEY. 1203 R.C. Cupum ; 1335 Ch. 

Cupum ; 1446 D.S.T. ccxcvi. Coupon. 
v. Cowpen (Xthb.) supra. 

CRAWCROOK. i4th cent. B.B. Craucrok; 1311 Reg. 

Bp. K. Cran-wecrok (sic). 

" Crow's crook." O.K. crawa, a crow, -f O.N. 
krokr , a crook or winding. The place may have been 
so named because haunted by crows, or from a man 
(or woman) whose name or nickname was " Crow." 
cf. Crawe, a woman's name (Searle) and the modern 
surname Crow. 

CROOK. 1267 F.P.D. n. Cruketona; 1304 Cl. Crok; 

1312 R.P.D. Crok; iqth cent. B.B. Cruktona, 


O.N. krokr, a crook, a winding, a nook. In Boldon 
Book the place is known as " the town by the crook," 
later it is called simply " the crook." The town may 
be so called because it is on one of the bends or nooks 
in the winding course of the Beechburn. 

CROXDALE (Spennymoor). 1214 D.S.T. 36 Croxtayl; 

1335 Ch. Crokestail. 

The first element is the O.N. personal name Krokr 
(cf. Wyld, p. 105, Croxteth). The second element, as 
shown by the spelling in M.E.,is not the ordinary Eng- 
lish dale but the O.W.Scand. deill, "a share, allot- 
ment or portion of land." The existence of this word 
in English field-names has been clearly proved by 
Lindkvist (pp. 30-55), where an exhaustive and inter- 
esting account of its history is given, and numerous 
examples of its use are quoted from Lincolnshire and 
Yorkshire. None of the examples given have survived 
on the modern map, and Lindkvist has no mention of 

DURHAM. 1191, Feet of Fines, Dunolm, Donelme; 
1227 Ch. Dunholm; 1231 Ch. Durham; 1313-8 
Ch. Durham, Durem, Duresme; 1343-6 Ch. 

2oo Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

The old name of Durham was Dun-holmr, a com- 
pound of O.E. dun, a hill (of Celtic origin), and 
O.N. holmr, an island, hence " the hill island," a name 
aptly descriptive of the site of ancient Durham, on high 
ground within a loop of the River Wear, whose two 
ends very nearly meet. The modern form is probably 
due to Anglo-Norman influence. 

DYANCE (nr. Killerby). 1207 F.P.D. n. Diendes. 

A difficult name ; the first element may possibly be 
O.N. dy, "a bog," cf. Rygh, Indl., p. 30. 

FELLING. 1325 F.P.D. n. Felling; 1434 F.P.D. 


"The meadow or grassland below the fell," O.N. 
fjall, mountain, and eng, grassland. The word ing 
is in common use in Mod. English dialect. The name 
aptly described the position of Felling, which stands 
on the ground sloping down from Gateshead Fell to the 
Tyne Valley. 

FOLLINGSBY. Type I. 1133-40 F.P.D. n. Foletesbi; 

1153-95 F.P.D. n. Foleteby, Folesceby ; 1203 Cart. 

Johan. Regis. Foletteby ; 1217-26 F.P.D. n. Folas- 

ceby ; 1352 Ch. Folethebi. Type II. 1416 F.P.D. n. 

Folaunceby ; 1430 F.P.D. Folanceby ; 1446 D.S.T. 

ccxci. Folaunceby. 

The explanation of Type I. would seem to go with 
that of Fulletby (Lines.) of which the D.B. forms are 
Folesbi, Fullobi, while those in the Lincolnshire Survey 
(c. iioo), which usually gives Scandinavian names 
more correctly, are Fuletebi, Fuledebi. Here the first 
element would seem to be a personal name of the same 
type as O.N. HafliSi, Sumarlifti, Vetrlifti. The second 
of these names is common as the name of Scandinavian 
settlers in England, in the form Sumerled, and forms 
the first element in Somersby, and in three Somerbys 
in Lincolnshire, and in Somerleyton in Suffolk. No 
name Fullifti is recorded in Old Norse, but there is an 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 201 

adjective full-li&a, meaning " well provided with 
troops," "fully able" (v. Vigfusson and Fritzner, 
s.v.), and this name, used first as a nickname, may 
well have given rise to a personal name Fullifti (cf. 
Selaby infra.). The forms Foletes- and Folesce- are 
due to Anglicising of the name and its being given a 
gen. sg. in -5. Type II. is difficult of explanation, 
but as it belongs to the i5th century it stands quite 
apart from any question of further Scandinavian 

FULTHORPE (Wynyard). 1311 Cart. Bp. K. Fulthorp ; 

1313 Reg. Bp. K. Foulthorp. 

" Foul or dirty village." For the use of thorp 
v. infra. 

HAINING (Houghton-le-Spring). 1401 D.S.T. cxc. 

See Haining (Nthb.) supra. 

HOLME HILL (Muggleswick). 1446 D.S.T. ccciv. le 


The common M.E. holme (O.N. holmr), an island 
or peninsula. 

HUTTON HENRY, c. 1025 H.S.C. Hotun; 1307 R.P.D. 
Hoton; 1 4th cent. B.B. Hotona, Hotton; 1430 
F.P.D. Huton; 1446 D.S.T. ccxcv. Hoton. 
The first element in this name may be O.W.Scand. 
hor, a phonetic variant of hdr, meaning " high," which 
is discussed by Lindkvist (p. 224). This element is to 
be found in Huby (Lines.) possibly also in Hoby 
(Lines.), and in Huttoft (Lines.), (v. Lindkvist loc. cit. 
and p. 218). Lindkvist's warning that places with 
Hotun in M.E. may go back to O.E. ho(h), heel, pro- 
jecting ridge of land, is probably not necessary in this 
case. There is no trace of a medial h in the M.E. 
spellings such as we regularly find in Houghton-le- 
Spring in the same county, which undoubtedly goes 
back to O.E. Hoh-tun. 

2O2 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

KILLERBY. 1091 F.P.D. Ixxxii. Culuerdebi; 1197 Pipe 
Culuerdebi; 1207 F.P.D. Kilucrdebi; 1312 Reg. 
Bp. K. Kylleivardby ; i4th cent. B.B. Killirby, 
Kyliverby ; 1435 D.S.T. ccvli. Killerby. 

The explanation of this place-name must go with that 
of Kilverstone (Norf. D.B. Culvertestuna), Kihvardby 
(Lines. Surv. noo Cuherteb') and Killerby (Yo.) For 
the forms of the last v. Bjorkman, Z.A.N., p. 54. The 
first element is a personal name, probably of hybrid 
origin. The first element in the name is O.N. Ketill, 
which often gives an O.E. form Cytel, and the second 
the common English suffix -iveard (cf. Ed-ward). The 
full O.N. form Ketilvaftr is not found (v. Bjorkman, 
p. 81). 

LUMLEY. c. 1025 H.S.C. Lummalea; 1196 Finch. 
Lumleia; 1304 Cl. Lomelay. 

For the history of this name v. Essays and Studies, 
u.s., p. 64. 
OUSTERLEY FIELD. 1382 Hatf. Oustre, Oustrefeld. 

The history of this name is similar to that of Auster- 
field (Yo.), which Moorman (p. 14) explains as from 
O.N. austr, east, + " field." 
OUSTON (nr. Birtley). 

Surtees (Vol. 2, pp. 126 and 192) gives early forms, 
Ulkilstan and villa Ulkilli, showing that the history of 
this name is the same as that of Ouston in Stamford- 
ham in Northumberland (v. supra). 

RABY. c. 1025 H.C.S. Raby ; 1200 R.C. Rabye ; 1313 
Reg. Bp. K. Raby. 

The second element is the common Scandinavian 
suffix -by, denoting a town, while the history of the 
first element is given by Lindkvist, pp. 188-9. He says 
that it is O.W.Scand. ni, a landmark. It is found in 
more than one Raby, and in Raydale and Raskelf in 
Yorkshire. As Lindkvist remarks, all of these names 
are capable of explanation from O.W.Scand. rd = a 
roe, but that alternative is unlikely. The old explana- 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names . 203 

tion which connected these words \vith O.W.Scand. 
(v)rd, nook, corner, is stated by Lindkvist to be no 
longer tenable, as Scandinavian words commencing in 
vr show uniformly conservative tendencies in English, 
keeping the initial v long after it was dropped in 
W. Scandinavian itself. 
RACEBV. 1344 (45th Report of Deputy Keeper of 

Public Records) Raceby. 

In the absence of any form earlier than 1344 it is 
difficult to say with certainty what may be the origin 
of this name. Raithby (Lines.) has early forms, 
Reythesby, Raitheby, which Lindkvist (p. 76) takes to 
contain an unrecorded O.W.Scand. Hreifti, a shortened 
form of Hreiftulfr or Hreiftarr. A form Reythesby 
with the gen. of the personal name might well develop 
to Raceby in later times. 

RAINTON. c. 1125 F.P.D. xli. Reinuntun, Reningtun, 
Reington; 1135-54 Cart. Hy. ii. Raintonam ; 1153- 
95 Cart. Ep. Hug. Reiningtone ; 1185 F.P.D. n. 
Reinintun, Renintun; 1203 Cart. Joh. Reg. Reyn- 
ton; 1228 Att. Test. Reiningtone; 1253 Ch. 

The forms for this place-name are practically the 
same as those for Rainton (Yorks,) (v. Lindkvist, p. 73), 
and Rennington (Xthb.). For the former Lindkvist 
suggests a patronymic formed from O.N Hreinn, while 
in a note on Rainhill in Lanes, (p. 74, n. 2) he quotes 
forms for the Durham Rainton, and suggests that the 
first element in both these names may be O.W.Scand. 
rein, a strip of land which forms the boundary of a 
tilled field or an estate (v. Bjorkman, Scand. Loan- 
words, p. 63), used in Norwegian dialect of a " long 
bank of earth or gravel." It seems, however, impos- 
sible to separate the history of the Durham and York- 
shire Raintons, and their history may be either that 
suggested by Lindkvist for the Yorkshire Rainton, or, 
more probably, that given above for the Northumber- 
land Rennington. 

204 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

RUMBY HILL. 1382 Hatf. Ronundby. 

The M.E. form is probably a mistake for Romundby, 
the first element being the common O.N. name 

SADBERGE. 1154-89 Finch. Satberga; 1189 D.S.T. 
lix. Sadberg; 1214, Geoffrey of Coldingham, Sath- 
bergia; 1176 Pipe Sethberga; 1234 Pat. Sedberg ; 
1338 Cl. Sedberne; 1307 R.P.D. Sadberg; 1318 
Ch. Seberge, Sedberga; 1435 Pat. Sadberg. 
There is a good deal of uncertainty about the vowel 
of the first element in this place-name. The same 
uncertainty is found in the case of the Yorkshire Sed- 
bergh, but whereas the e-forms predominate there, in 
the Durham Sadberge the evidence inclines, if any- 
thing, to a as the original vowel. Sedbergh is com- 
monly explained as from O.N. set-berg, " a hill whose 
top suggests a seat by its shape," and it is possible 
that this may be correct, though t is never found in 
any M.E. form. In Norwegian dialect the forms sete 
and sata are both alike used of a little flat place on a 
rock or hill-top, and this might account for the variation 
in vowel, the voicing of the t being due to the following 
voiced b. Another possible explanation is that the first 
element is O.N. sd5, " seed," used, according to Rygh 
(N.G. I., 346), as a nickname. The early spellings 
with th may possibly point to this, though they are 
capable of another explanation, and the variant vowel 
might be due to the influence of the cognate O.K. seed 
> M.E. sed. In any case the name is probably of 
Norse origin, as there was a " wapentake " of Sad- 
berge, the only example of the use of that term north 
of the Tees. 

SATLEY. 1228 Att. Test.' Sateley ; 1304 Cl. S alley ; 1311 

R.P.D. Satteley; 1312 R.P.D. Satley. 
The first element in this word may be the O.N. 
saata, a haystack, which Rygh finds in more than one 
Norse place-name (c/. N.G., v. 276), the meaning being 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 205 

" the meadow by the haystack." The first element 

might also be the Norw. dial, seta, seta, "a flat place 

on a rock, or the top of a hill," but this seems less 


SCHOOL AYCLIFFE. i4th cent. B.B. Sculacle; 1440 

D.S.T. cccv. Sculacley. 

So-called in distinction from Aycliffe, and probably 
named after its Norse owner, Skull, cf. Scoulton (Norf . 
D.B. Sculetuna), Sculthorpe (ib. D.B. Sculetorpd). 
This Skuli may be the very Scula mentioned above 

(P- 173)- 

SELABY. 1197 Pipe Selebi; 1317 Cl. Seletby ; 1322 Pat. 
Seleteby ; 1335 Ipm. Seletby; 1336 Ipm. Seletby; 
1460 Pat. Seleby. 

The -by of a man bearing the O.N. name *Sce-li ! Qi 
sea-goer, sailor. This name is not actually found, but 
names \vith See- as the first element are common in 
O.N., and Sce-li<Si is exactly equivalent to the name 
Haf-HQi ocean-goer, which is well established. Sce- 
lifti corresponds etymologically to the O.K. sce-lida, 
a word commonly used to describe a pirate. For the 
M.E. development of the name cf. Follingsby, supra. 

SKERNE, R. 1402 F.P.D. aqua de Skyryne ; 1430 ib. 


It is impossible to separate this name from Skerne 
(Yo.), of which the D.B. form is Schirne, while other 
early forms are Skiren, Skyryn. The closest parallel 
to these is the Xorse river name Skirna (near Trond- 
hjem), which Rygh (Xorske Elvenavne, p. 217) con- 
nects with skirr, clear, bright, skirna, to clear up, and 
skirning (a clearing), and the farm name, Skjern, in 
the same district, which Rygh says is named after a 
stream close to the farm. 

SKIRNINGHAM. c. 1090 Hist, de Obs. Dunelm. Skirn- 
ingeheim, Skerningeim ; 1135-54 Cart. Hy II. 
Schirningaham ; 1203 Cart. Joh. Reg. Skirninge- 

206 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

" The homestead by the Skerne meadows." The 
element -ing is O.N. engr, " grass-land, meadow," and 
the early spellings in heim and eim point very clearly 
to O.N. heimr rather than O.E. ham as the earliest 
form of the final element. Place-names Skjern and 
Skjerninge are found in Denmark (Steenstrup, op. cit., 
pp. 334-5), and we probably have the same name in 
Seaming (Norf. D.B. Scerninga). Whether the suffix 
has the same origin in all cases it is impossible to say. 

SLINGLEY HALL (nr. Dalton-le-Dale). 1155 F.P.D. n. 


The first element in this word may be the proper 
name found also in the Yorkshire place-name Slingsby. 
The earlier form of that name is Slingesby, and Bjork- 
man (Z.A.N., p. 77) suggests that the first element is 
from a Norse nickname *S10ngr or *Slengi, comparing 
the modern Norw. dial, sleng, used of a growing youth 
and also of an idler. In Northern English dialect to 
sling is used in the sense " to go about idling, to sneak 
or slink about." Bjorkman suggests that this usage 
depends on Norse influence. The second element is 
O.E. hlaiiv, a hill, very often corrupted in N.E. to -ley, 
as if from O.E. leak. 

STAINDROP. 1131 E.P.D. n. Standrop ; 1135-54 Cart, 
Hy. II. Steindrope ; 1203 Cart. Joh. Reg. Stein- 
drope ; 1311 Reg. Bp. K. Stayndrop. 
The first element is O.N. steinn, stone or rock, a 
common element in place-nomenclature. The spellings 
with stan show the substitution of the common O.E. 
form stan; cf. Stainton and Stanton. The second ele- 
ment, -drop, is found in other place-names in England 
as a variant form of \>orp, due to metathesis and stop- 
ping of the continuant J>, e.g., Burdrop (Oxf.) and Soul- 
drop (Beds.), but the early and uniform appearance 
of the spelling drop would seem to forbid such an 
explanation in this case. Lindkvist (p. 84, n. 4) sug- 
gests that the second element is O.W.Scand. dropi, a 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 207 

drop, or O.W.Scand. drop, Norw. dial, drop, a drop- 
ping, dripping : Staindrop lies in a valley on a small 
stream called Langley Beck. 

STAINTON, GREAT AND LITTLE. 1284 Finch. Staynton; 
1308 Ch. Staintuna. 

STAINTON-LE-STREET. 1312 Reg. Bp. K. Staynton-in- 
Strata; 1479 B.B.H. Staynton-in-Strata. 

NUNSTAINTON. 1387 D.S.T. clvii. Nunstaynton. 

O.N. steinn-tun = stone-enclosure, the equivalent 
of English Stanton. For the question how far place- 
names of this type can be considered names of Scandi- 
navian settlements v. Lindkvist, p. 83. 

SWAINSTON (nr. Sedgefield). 1351 B.M. Swayneston. 
" Swein's tun." This personal name is very common 
in place-names (v. Lindkvist, pp. 91-3). It is also 
found as Sivin- in Swinford (Leic.), Swine- in Swines- 
hurst (Lanes.), Sivan- in Swanland (Yo.). There is a 
Swainston (I. of W.) containing this name : it is prob- 
ably of comparatively late origin. 

THORPE BY EASINGTON. c. 1025 H.S.C. Thorep ; 1197 
Pipe Torp. 

THORPE BULMER. 1312 R.P.D. Thorpebulmer. 

THORPE THEWLES. 1314 Reg. Bp. K. Thorptheules. 
For the use of thorp v. infra. 

THRISLINGTON HALL (Ferryhill). 1309 F.P.D. 66 n. 


The tun or farm of Thorsteinn, a very common 
Scandinavian name in England. It is found in Thurst- 
aston (Cheshire), Thurston End (Suff. D.B. Thur- 
stanestuna), Thruxton (Norf. D.B. Turstanestuna), 
Thrussington (Leic. D.B. Turstane stone}. 

THROSTON. c. 1270 (List of knights at Lewes) 

"Thorir's farm." cf. Rygh, G.P., p. 259. 

2o8 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

ULN'ABY HALL (High Coniscliffe). Newm. Uluenebi; 

1314 Reg. Bp. K. Ulneby. 

The -by or settlement of Ulfheftinn. This is a com- 
mon Icelandic name, and from its use there Lindkvist 
concludes that it was already in use in Norway during 
the Viking period, though no example of its use 
earlier than 1300 has been preserved to us. A contracted 
form, Vlfuen, is found in a Norse document of 1411. 
It is probable that a similar contraction took place in 
England, giving the form Vluenebi. 

USHAW. a. 1196. Finch. Ulveskahe; 1312 Reg. Bp. K. 

Uuesshaive ; 1312 Pat. Uuesshawe. 
The first element is probably the O.N. name Ulfr 
(= O.K. Wulf), and the second the O.K. sceaga, a 
wood, hence the " wood of a man named Ulfr." The 
spelling skahe may be due to the influence of the corres- 
ponding Norse word skogr, a wood. 

WHAM. 1315 R.P.D. Northquivam, Qivhom. 

v. Whitwham (Nthb.) supra. 

Taking a survey of the whole county, the number of 
names is of course absolutely smaller than in North- 
umberland, but in estimating the relative proportion 
we must bear in mind (i) that a much smaller propor- 
tion of the place-names of the whole county is preserved 
in mediaeval documents in Durham than in Northumber- 
land ; (2) that the county has only one-half the area of 
co. Northumberland. Bearing these two points in mind, 
it is probable that there is relatively a much greater pro- 
portion of Scandinavian names in Durham. We have 
several clear examples of -by, some of -ing, -toft, and 
-holm, several containing the element crook, and the 
names are scattered fairly well over the county. Still, 
they are not so numerous as to suggest any definite 
partition. There does not seem to be any special preva- 
lence of Scandinavian names even in those districts 
assigned by Raegeneald to his followers, Scula and 

Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 209 

Onlafbeald, viz., from Castle Eden south to Billing- 
ham-in-Teesdale, and from Castle Eden north and west 
to the Wear. 

In studying the modern map we find the continued 
use of Scar along the coast (e.g., Long Scar), and 
Loom, by Easington, may well be the same as the 
familiar Norse place-name Lorn, dat. pi. of L6, a word 
of somewhat uncertain meaning. Medieval documents 
show that Holmside and Butterby are no evidence for 
Scandinavian settlement. Holmside is from earlier 
Holinside (from M.E. holen, holly), and Butterby is 
Beautrove or Beautrone (the latter a blunder of the 
transcriber), meaning apparently " the well situated " 
(beau trouve), a name which aptly describes the position 
of Butterby on the well-wooded winding banks of the 
Wear (cf. Bear Park in the immediate neighbourhood 
from earlier Beau Repair). Biggin and Newbiggin are 
fairly common, garth is occasionally used, there are 
many holms and a few tofts, -mire is fairly common, 
and so is -carr, -her. Waskerley in the N.W. probably 
has the same history as in Northumberland, and so has 
Nafferton. In the high ground at the head of Wear- 
dale and Teesdale place-nomenclature is very largely 
Scandinavian : there are fells, grains, sikes, becks and 
gills in abundance, and it is much to be regretted that 
there is a great scarcity of early forms for these districts. 
Again, as in Northumberland, the great increase in 
the extreme west would seem to point to settlements 
from Cumberland, Westmoreland and Lancashire, 
rather than from the eastern side of the county, though 
it should be noted that fell is found as far east as Gates- 
head Fell and Low Fell. The use of beck is significant. 
The tributaries of Tyne and Wear are all called burn, 
except in the extreme west of the county, and here a 
name like Beechburn Beck shows that they are not all 
original. On the other hand the tributaries of the Tees 
are almost uniformly known as beck, even in the 
easternmost parts of the county. 

2io Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

Finally, a word must be said about two suffixes over 
which there has been a good deal of discussion in deal- 
ing with questions of Scandinavian influence, viz., 
-dale and -thorp. With regard to dale, this is the 
common word for a valley in Northumberland and 
Durham alike. From the time of the earliest records 
we hear of Glendale, Coquetdale, Tynedale, Allendale, 
Redesdale, Wear dale, Teesdale, and as there is so little 
Scandinavian nomenclature in Northumberland, and 
not much in Durham, it seems safe to conclude that 
this use of dale is Anglian rather than Scandinavian, 
though it may have been extended under the influence 
of the later settlers. One piece of evidence in this 
connexion seems to have been overlooked. Dalton-le- 
Dale is called Daltun already in Bede's history, so 
that the use of the word in Anglian place-names is 
clearly established. 

The case of thorp is more difficult. There are thorps 
in southern England in Bucks., Oxon. and other 
counties outside the sphere of Danish or Norse influ- 
ence, but they are scattered and comparatively few in 
number. Thorps are abundant in East Anglia and 
Northern Mercia and in Yorkshire, just where Scandi- 
navian influence is admittedly strongest. In North- 
umberland, the only two thorps are both in places where 
there seems to have been a small collection of Scandi- 
navian settlements, while in Durham there are three 
thorps, all in those lands of St. Cuthbert which we 
know to have been at one time in the hands of Viking 
settlers. While not denying that thorp may often be 
of native origin, it seems to be fairly clear from the 
evidence of Northumberland and Durham that it is 
often a mark of Scandinavian settlement. 


BY A. VV. JOHNSTON, F.S.A.Scor., President. 

IT has been shown by professor Alexander Bugge and 
dr. Jakob Jakobsen that the Norse colonisation of the 
islands must have begun as early as, if not earlier 
than 700, to account for the primitive forms of Norse 
place-names and institutions which are to be found 
there and not in the later colonies in Iceland and else- 
where. 1 The place-names of Orkney and Shetland 
seem to indicate that the colonists came from western 
Norway. On the assumption that the 68al 2 succession 
of Gulathing-Law was in force at that time, we 
have, however, historical proof in the sagas that 
Orkney was colonised, at the latest, circa 664. When 
king Harald harfagri fined the boendr of Orkney, 
shortly after 893 (say 895), they were unable to pay 
him, whereupon earl Einar paid the fine on condition 
that the boendr gave him their ofiul, until they were 
able to redeem them. We have here these facts : 
(i) Orkney was in the possession of 65almenn, and 
6Sal law was in full force with its lausn, right of 
redemption ; (2) it took five generations of continuous 
ownership of land to make it 6Sal ; consequently (3) the 
youngest 6Sal family must have dated from the year 
730 (i.e., 895, less five generations of 33 years each). 
It is incredible that all these families began possession 
in the same year and exactly five generations before 
895. We shall, therefore, be safe in allowing a 
minimum addition of two generations, or sixty-six 
years, to allow for the colonisation of the islands, which 

1 Vesterlandenes Inflydelse paa Nordboernes, A. Bugge. Shetlandstfernes 
Stednavne, J. Jakobsen. 

/, pi. 68ul, property held in allodial tenure. 

212 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

would thus have begun at the latest circa 664. * The 
later colonisation of Iceland was effected in some fifty 
years, but this settlement arose from a definite political 
cause in the lifetime of one man, Harald harfagri. 

According to the accepted chronology, the Norsemen 
made their first appearance in England in 787, and in 
the west of Scotland and Ireland in 795. Orkney and 
Shetland, being the nearest western land to Norway, 
would be first visited. From 565, the time when Orkney 
and Shetland were Christianised, three generations, or 
ninety-nine years, would be ample time to account for 
the Pictish ecclesiastical monuments of which the 
remains have been found. It was only some fifty 
years after the Norsemen in Orkney were converted 
themselves that their earl made a pilgrimage to Rome 
and built a cathedral. 

It has been contended that the first Norse settlers 
found the islands without inhabitants, because the sagas 
make no mention of any having been found there. But 
the sagas only commence with the history of the islands 
at the time the earldom was founded in 872, nearly two 
centuries after their colonisation which is not referred 
to at all. It is incredible that the Pictish ecclesiastical 
buildings, of which the remains have been found, 
could have been erected, utilised and abandoned and 
the islands deserted in the short space of a hundred 
years or even less. 

The total absence of any record or tradition regarding 
the first arrival of the Norsemen in Orkney, and the 
continued presence of the Picts, as is shown by the sur- 
vival of their place-names and church dedications, 
appear to indicate that the first colonisation by the 
vikings was gradual and peaceful, that they inter- 
married with the Picts, as they did later on with the 
Irish in Ireland, and that perhaps Christianity never 

1 The colonisation of Shetland lias been already dated, 620 (Ud. N.H., 
ii., 10, quoting Otto Bremer : Ethnographic der germanischen 
Stamme, 119). 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 213 

entirely died out in the islands. The latter supposition, 
if correct, may account for the ease with which the 
vikings ultimately became Christians. 

Although no anthropological survey has yet been 
made in the islands, it would not be surprising if such 
a survey should reveal Pictish features coinciding, even 
after all these twelve centuries, with the districts pre- 
serving Pictish place-names, presumably the inland 
and inaccessible places, as is the case in the Isle of 

The comparatively small number of Pictish place- 
names in the islands must be accounted for by the pre- 
dominance of the Norsemen, whose language would 
have been consequently adopted by the Picts. Many so- 
called Norse place-names may be unrecognisable glosses 
of Pictish names. The name Orkney itself is a gloss of 
a Pictish name, and so also probably is Shetland. 1 If 
the names of the two groups themselves are not of 
Norse origin, and only clothed in Norse garments, what 
may not be the names of the lesser islands and places ? 
The persistency of Norse, as compared with Pictish 
place-names is well illustrated in the Hebrides, where 
the population, during the Norse period and until their 
cession to Scotland in 1266, was probably bilingual, 
the Gaels and the Norse each speaking their own lan- 
guage. Since the cession to Scotland, after which the 
rulers were no longer appointed by or under Norway, 
political influences very quickly made the Norsemen 
adopt the Gaelic language. And yet after all these 
centuries, since the extinction of the Norse language, 
Norse place-names still flourish with but a very slight 
Gaelic tinge. Moreover, there are many Norse loan- 
words in Gaelic, whereas there are very fe\v Gaelic 
loan-words in Scandinavian. 

The second migration from Norway to Orkney took 
place after king Harald harfagri began to consolidate 
Norway into one kingdom, 860-933 ; during which 

1 Old-Lore Miscellany (Viking Society), v., 14, 104-8, vi., 10-19, 74- 

214 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

period Iceland was colonised. He conquered Orkney 
and Shetland, and erected them into an earldom in 872. 
The first colonists no doubt took their Norwegian laws 
and form of government with them, and these would 
naturally have been conformed to Harald's new Nor- 
wegian constitution, when he founded the earldom. 

It is stated in Heimskringla that Iceland and Faroe 
were discovered and peopled during Harald's reign, 
and that there was also much faring of Northmen to 
Shetland, and further, that many mighty men of Nor- 
way fled as outlaws and fell to warring in the west, 
spending the winter in the Hebrides and Orkney, and 
the summer in raiding Norway. It is 'also stated that 
before Harald's time, Orkney had been the haunt of 
vikings (vikingabaeli). The special reference to the 
faring of Norwegians to Shetland and not to Orkney, 
in Harald's reign, appears to indicate that Shetland 
had not been previously so fully colonised as Orkney. 
This surmise appears to be supported by the researches 
of dr. Jakobsen, who has found older forms of place- 
names in Orkney than in Shetland. 

The earliest Scandinavian literature consists of runic 
inscriptions. Writing began in Norway in the middle 
of the eleventh century, with the taking down of the 
hitherto oral code of laws, known as Grdgds, a work 
now lost. In Iceland the laws w r ere taken down in 1118. 
which was followed by the recording of the oral sagas. 
The oral Edda lays are supposed to have been taken 
down in the twelfth century. 

There can be little doubt that the adoption of Christi- 
anity by the Norse, circa 1000, with its written scrip- 
tures and missals, set the fashion of writing ; not to 
forget the great and uncongenial burden it would have 
been on the lawsayingmen to be suddenly called upon 
to add to their memory the voluminous new laws deal- 
ing with the establishment of Christianity. 

As regards Orkney and Shetland we may therefore 
assume that their laws were written down at the same 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 215 

time as they were in Norway, and also at the instiga- 
tion of king St. Olaf, the great apostle of Christianity 
in the north ; if indeed his code itself was not actually 
adopted by or imposed upon the islands, which seems 
more probable. 

From the middle of the twelfth century we find the 
Orkney earl St. Rognvald, and, after him, the Orkney 
bishop Biarni, the skald, both expert poets, busy at 
work with Icelandic skalds, and we have some of their 
literature preserved. It was during this period that the 
Edda lays are supposed to have been taken down, and, 
as some of them have a local setting, it is not improb- 
able that some, at least, may have been rescued from 
the mouths of Orkneymen and Shetlanders. It is 
significant that many Edda poetic words are now alone 
in use, as seanames, in Shetland. 1 Professor Sophus 
Bugge was of opinion that the lays were composed in 
the British Isles, in proximity to Christian influence." 
Such of these lays as may have been composed in 
Britain before 787-795, when the Norsemen first 
appeared in the west of Scotland, Ireland and England, 
could only have been composed in Orkney, where, it 
has been shown, the Norse arrived circa 664, and lived 
among the Christian Picts, but it appears to be gener- 
ally agreed now, that none of the lays could have been 
composed earlier than the ninth century. 

In common with other Norse places, Orkney and 
Shetland had their sagas and poems. There are the 
sagas of the earls, 872-1206, which were taken down in 
writing and brought up to date in 1206. The following 
list of works is compiled from Orkneyinga Saga, unless 
where otherwise stated : Fundinn Noregr, mythical. 
Jarla-sogur, made up of what must have been separate 
sagas of individual earls. Ro'gnvaldsdrdpa, and 
Porfinnsdrdpa, by Arnorr jarlaskald (partly in saga 

1 Scot. Hist. Rev. IX., 148. 2 The Home of the Eddie Poems, London, 1899. 
Gudbrand Vigfiisson was the first to suggest tha.t the Jays were 
composed in the British Isles. 

216 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

and partly in Snorra Edda), written in 1046-1064.' 
f>dttr Magnuss jarls. Hdkon Pdlssons drdpa, men- 
tioned. Visur about Hakon Palsson and Magnus 
Erlendsson, mentioned. Pdttr Pals jarls. Jarteina bok. 
Pdttr Rognvalds jarls, which may also be called Sveins 
saga. Hdttalykill, by earl Rognvald, mentioned, 
but preserved in Stockholm. Jomsvikingadrdpa 
and Mdlshdttakvcefti, by bishop Biarni, not men- 
tioned in the saga, but preserved in Codex Regius of 
Snorra Edda (see Corpus Poeticum Boreale). Magnuss 
saga helga or Magnuss saga eyja-jarls : (i) Magnuss 
saga hin lengri, (2) Magnuss saga hin skamma, (3) 
Legenda de sancto Magno (six pieces). 

The difference between Icelandic and Orkney saga is 
that the former describes personal and family feuds and 
litigations, whereas the latter is almost solely concerned 
with genuine viking life. Iceland was too detached for 
viking cruises, but Orkney was an ideal striking point 
for sea-rovers. As a matter of fact the best saga of 
the Orkney collection is that which treats of Svein of 
Gairsey, the last of the vikings. He kept a bodyguard 
of eighty huskarlar. Each year, after seed time, he 
went on a vdr, spring, viking, and then returned for 
harvest, after which he went on a haust, autumn, 
viking, and returned home to spend the winter on his 
spoils. On one occasion he captured two English keels 
off Dublin, laden with English cloth. On his return 
journey he sewed some of the captured cloth on his 
sails, so that they appeared as though they were 
entirely made of that material, and hence this viking 
was called skruftviking ; skruft is used in old Norse for 
finery, and, in this instance, has been translated 
broadcloth by sir George Dasent, but, in accordance 
with Fritzner, it should be, pragtfuldt vikingetog, 
gorgeous viking expedition. 2 As an instance of 

1 Arnorr was an Icelander, resident in Orkney, where he composed 
these poems on the two earls, and hence he was nicknamed jarlaskald. 

2 In Goudie's translation of the saga this meaning has also been 
correctly given. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 217 

Svein's fine feeling and generosity may be men- 
tioned the capture of earl Rognvald's ships by earl 
Erlend and Svein, when Svein claimed, as his share 
of the spoil, all earl Rognvald's treasures, which he 
straightway sent back to earl Rognvald. Earl Rogn- 
vald had only just returned from his famous pilgrimage 
to the Holy Land. He afterwards became one of earl 
Rognvald's hirtimenn or bodyguard, and in the end 
fell, ambushed, in his last viking, in Ireland. The saga 
fittingly ends with the following tribute to Svein : 
"There now is an end of telling about Svein; and it 
is the talk of men that he hath been the greatest man 
in the western lands, both of yore and now-a-days, of 
those men who had no higher rank 1 than he." Svein 
set the splendid example of continuing one's life work 
to the end in harness. 

At the time of the conclusion of the Orkney saga, 
circa 1206, the male line of the Norse earls, already 
half Scottish, came to an end, having lasted only some 
three centuries; and was succeeded, in the female line, 
by four lines of Scottish earls, the Athole, Angus, 
Strathearn and St. Clair families, 1206-1470. 

The Norwegian crown passed through a female to a 
Swedish line of kings, which reigned from 1319 to 
1387 ; and then, after the treaty of Kalmar, when Nor- 
way, Denmark and Sweden were united in one king- 
dom, the crown passed to a Danish line, which was 
reigning in 1468-9, when Orkney and Shetland were 
wadset or pawned to Scotland, in security for the dowry 
of the queen of king James III. of Scotland. 

The succession of the Scottish earls in the thirteenth 
century, and of the Swedish and Danish kings in the 
fourteenth century, with their foreign influence, must 
account for the complete break in the insular literature, 
which was thereafter confined to complaints about Scot- 
tish and other interference in insular affairs. 

1 ON. tignar-jiafu, name and rank which raised one above the common 

218 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

The residence of the crown in Denmark, with the 
influx of Danish officials and place-men in Norway, 
very quickly established the Danish language in Nor- 
way, so that, by 1450, Norwegian as a national 
language came to an end, 1 and, circa 1530, the Nor- 
wegian laws had to be translated into Danish. In 
Norway this resulted in the complete disappearance of 
Norwegian literature, which is only represented by 

After the transference of Orkney and Shetland to 
vScotland, in 1468-9, the Scottish crown acquired the 
earldom (i.e., the earl's rule, title, the public revenues 
and the earldom landed estate), from the last Norse earl, 
William St. Clair, and thereafter appointed its own 
Scottish rulers. In 1472, the bishopric of Orkney and 
Shetland was transferred, by Papal bull, from the 
metropolitan see of Trondhjem to the newly created 
metropolitan see of St. Andrews in Scotland. In 1486, 
Kirkwall was erected into a Scottish royal burgh. In 
1490, the bishopric was erected into a Scottish regality, 
with Scottish civil courts and officers. In 1602, we have 
the last mention of a judicial reference to the Norse 
law-book of the islands, 2 since when Scottish law has 

The succession of the Scottish earls, with their Scot- 
tish kin and retainers, transformed the islands into a 
sanctuary for Scottish fugitives and adventurers. 
Scottish fashions, habits and language soon took a hold 
on Orkney, the seat of government, which was also 
nearer to Scotland than Shetland was. 

The latest known Norse charter in Orkney is dated 
1329," and the latest Norse document circa 14.26,* a 

1 Norges Historic, IV. 

2 Mackenzie's Grievances of 0. and S., 6-7. 
8 D.N., ii., 144. 

*D.N., ii., 514. But this cannot be the Orkney dialect of the 
period, as its vocabulary is mixed, and probably represents a sort 
of court or chancery language for the three kingdoms of the Union. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 219 

complaint to the king of Denmark against a Scotsman 
who was then ruler of the islands. In Shetland, Norse 
charters occur as late as the seventeenth century, and 
towards the end of the sixteenth century it is related 
that a Shetland clergyman went to Norway to learn 
[or rather to perfect himself in] Norwegian, as the 
Shetlanders knew no other language, and he so 
acquired the nickname of " Norsk." We have 
Orkney charters in Scottish in 1433 2 and after, and 
m 1438 the lawman of Orkney gave his testimony in 
Scottish. 3 

If the insular literature is mainly confined to com- 
plaints during the rule of the Scoto-Norse earls, it is 
still more so after the transference of the islands to 
Scotland, when the position became one of " out of the 
frying pan into the fire." This was accentuated by the 
strenuous efforts, made by the Scottish government, to 
render the redemption of the islands by Norway as 
difficult as possible. The outstanding document in the 
literature of this period is the report of the royal com- 
mission, appointed in 1576, to take evidence regarding 
the alleged oppressions of the Scottish ruler, lord 
Robert Stewart, 1 an illegitimate son of king James V. 
He was, however, afterwards made earl of Orkney, 
contrary to the act of Scottish parliament, by which the 
title of earl of Orkney was annexed to the crown, not 
to be conferred on anyone but a legitimate son of the 

The survival of Norse words and legal terms in 
Orkney deeds indicates a state of corruption which 
renders some of them almost unrecognisable. 

Norse, as the language of the earl's court in Orkney, 
probably terminated with the succession of the St. 
Clair line in 1379, if not already with the termination 
of the Angus line in 1320, as the last known Norse deed 
in Orkney, in 1329,* is that of the countess of the last 

1 Fasti Ecclesia Scoticana, iii., 441. 2 O. S. R., I., 246. 3 ib. 44. 
*Opp. O.Z. 4 D.N., ii., 144. 

22o Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

earl of that line. As a dialect Norse, called Norn, con- 
tinued in corners of the islands until the eighteenth 

One unfortunate result of the change of language 
from Norse to Scottish has been the extinction of Norse 
ballad and music, one going with the other. A few 
relics have been preserved, and it has been noted that 
the " Arrow Lay," Gray's " Fatal Sisters," was recited 
in Norse in Orkney as late as the eighteenth century. 1 
Norse dialect words survive by the thousand. Dr. 
Jakob Jakobsen has made a large collection of Shetland 
words, and is now engaged in rescuing what survive 
in Orkney ; after which he will extend his researches to 

Orkney and Shetland literature of the Scottish period 
began in the seventeenth century, with topographical 
and historical descriptions of the islands. From that 
time to this, with perhaps one or two exceptions, the 
names of all the authors are of outland origin. The 
study of records began in the eighteenth century, when 
the landowners, with an eye to business, attempted to 
have some of their grievances remedied, and the work 
of hunting up and elucidating the records was done by 
mr. A. Mackenzie. 2 In 1820, mr. Alexander Peterkin 
edited a volume of rentals of the earldom and bishopric 
of Orkney. Amongst the names of subsequent editors 
of records may be mentioned those of colonel David 
Balfour, of Balfour, mr. George Petrie, mr. Gilbert 
Goudie, mr. F. J. Grant, and the venerable archdeacon 
J. B. Craven. The most important collection of docu- 
ments is that contained in Diphmatarium Norvegicum. 
It now remains to fill in a few details of the foregoing 
very brief historical outline. At the most we can only 
indicate the uncertainties which remain to be cleared up 
when the necessary documents are found. 

1 Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, 1837, iii., 190. 

2 Mackenzie's Grievances of O. and S. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 221 


The original colonisation of Orkney and Shetland 
may have been effected in the same way as it was later 
in Iceland. Chiefs and their followers would peg 
out their claims as they arrived. The word herafi, 
district, still survives in Orkney and Shetland. In 
Orkney it occurs in the name of a defined district, 
Byrgisheraft. This place is now divided into two 
parishes, Birsa and Harra, the latter was called Hurray 
Brugh, and also Brugh, in 1500.' The O.N. term 
byrgi, an entrenchment or mound, may have been 
applied to this heraft, or district, on account of the 
exceptional number of mounds, covering the founda- 
tions of Pictish round towers, which are to be found in 
Harra ; or the name of the heraft may have been taken 
from a possible name of the tidal island, now called the 
Brough of Birsa, *Byrgisey (which may be repre- 
sented by the modern name Birsa), and probably 
so-called on account of its mound-like appearance. 
The original }>inghdr, ^ing-districts, into which the 
islands were divided, would each be probably of the 
size of ByrgisheraS. The colonists must have settled 
on the enclosed townships of the Picts, 2 whose chapels 
would have been utilised as hof, temples. That the 
Picts became thralls of the Norse seems probable. 
Dr. Jakobsen calls attention to the Shetland word 
tralfangi-nn (O.N. *}>rcel-fangi), applied to a short, 
square-built person, as suggestive of the aboriginal 
race who became thralls. 

The original colony in Orkney was augmented by 
the discontented chiefs and their followers, when 
Harald harfagri formed the united kingdom of Norway. 
When Harald conquered Orkney and Shetland, in 872, 
he drove out the leading vikings, who had been making 
reprisals on Norway, and of course would have confis- 
cated their landed estates as well as those of other chiefs 

ip.R. No. i. 

2 For a description of these, see Proceeds. S.A. Scot., 1884, 254. 

222 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

in the islands. These estates would form the len * or 
fief of the earl. It is notable that the earl's landed estate 
lay scattered throughout the islands, which appears to 
confirm the above conjecture that the forfeited estates 
of the Orkney vikings formed the earldom estate ; these 
were in Birsa, Orphir, Kirkwall, Burrey, South 
Ronaldsey, Hoy, Westrey, Sandey and Stronsey. 
This supposition is strengthened by the fact that the 
earldom estate included a great part of the north isles, 
which would have been ideal viking stations. 

Each )>ingha would have had its hof, temple, for 
which a Pictish church would have done service. When 
Christianity was adopted, the jnngha would become the 
parish, and its hof the parish church. With the excep- 
tion of ByrgisheraS, there is no indication in the saga 
of the districts into which the islands were divided. 
That the parochial J?ing was the unit of government in 
the islands appears to be proved by the termination 
lp ing in the names of a number of Shetland parishes, 
e.g., Delting, Sandsting, etc., some of which are 
mentioned as early as 1321-1355. 2 


The ecclesiastical history of Orkney and Shetland is 
particularly complicated. 

The Pictish church would of course be under lona. 
Adam of Bremen (1067-1076) stated that Orkney was 
formerly ruled by bishops appointed by the Scots 
(lona) and English (York). In 605, Pope Gregory 
wrote to St. Augustine that, after the latter's death, 
there should be two primates of England, one in 
London and one in York. It was maintained by the 
archbishop of Canterbury, in 1119, that " Britanniae," 

1 Borrowed from mid. low German, or more probably O.E. lizn, a 
lease, to account for the early use of the word, the feudal system in 
Norway being of foreign origin. The true O.N., /<z, has the 
simpler meaning ' loan.' 

''D.N., ix., no; iii., 234. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 223 

in Gregory's letter, included Scotland and Ireland. 
Meanwhile Orkney was colonised by the Norse, 664-872. 
In 822, Rheims was made metropolitan of the North, 
and in 831, Bremen was made metropolitan of the three 
Scandinavian kingdoms l ; but there were no Christians 
in Norway. In 934, Hakon (son of king Harald 
harfagri and fosterson of Athelstan of England, by 
whom he was converted) vainly attempted to Chris- 
tianise Norway. He asked for bishops from England. 
In 961, king Harald grafeldr, who had been baptised 
in England, succeeded to the Norwegian throne. In 
995, king Olaf Tryggvason, who had been converted in 
England, formally introduced Christianity into Nor- 
way and Orkney and Shetland, assisted by English 
bishops and priests. Henry, called "the fat" (the 
treasurer of Knut, king of England, 1014, 1016-1035, 
and of Norway 1028-1035), was appointed bishop of 
Orkney, probably by York, when Knut was king of 
Norway, 1028-1035. Knut appointed one other Nor- 
wegian bishop. 

The early Christian kings of Norway repudiated 
Bremen as their metropolitan, and looked to England 
for bishops. It was only during the early part of the 
reign of Knut, when he claimed Norway, that Norway 
turned to Bremen rather than England. 

In 1050-56, Bremen appointed a bishop of Orkney, 
probably at the request of I>orrinn, the earl who built 
the first cathedral in Orkney, after he had visited 
Bremen and Rome. This bishop was ousted, in 1085., 
by a bishop who had been appointed by York in 1073. 
The latter York bishop had been probably appointed 
on the strength of the Papal bull which assigned the 
primacy of Scotland to York in 1072. After this we 
have double bishops of Orkney, appointed by Bremen 
and York. These double bishops were probably run 
by the rival earls, each having his own prelate. The 
Pope upheld the York bishops. The dispute was finally 

1 D.N., xvii. B, 177, 178. 

224 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

settled in 1152, when Nidaros, now Trondhjem, was 
made the metropolitan see of Norway, including Ork- 
ney. Hitherto the bishops had been missionary bishops 
without chapters, whereas now they were assigned 
cathedrals, with properly constituted chapters. Bishop 
William, the old, of Orkney (who would have been 
appointed by Bremen if his appointment took place 
in 1 102, or by Lund, which was made metropolitan of 
Norway in 1104, if, as is thought by some, his appoint- 
ment took place in 1112), was the sole bishop in pos- 
session when Nidaros was made metropolitan of 
Orkney. During his episcopate the cathedral was 
transferred from Birsa to Kirkwall. As bishop 
William was the first constitutional bishop of Orkney 
with a chapter, he is accordingly described in the saga 
as " the first bishop of Orkney." In 1472, the bishopric 
of Orkney was transferred from the see of Trondhjem 
to the newly erected metropolitan see of St. Andrews 
in Scotland. 

Another cause of confusion arose during the greac 
Papal schism in 1378-1429, when double bishops of 
Orkney were appointed by the Popes and anti-Popes. 
Norway, which was in possession of Orkney, acknow- 
ledged the Papal bishops, so that they were alone in 
actual possession of the bishopric. Scotland, which 
acknowledged the anti-Popes until 1417, had certain 
Scottish clergy appointed as titular bishops of Orkney, 
but they had permission to retain their Scottish livings, 
in which they resided. 

The payment of tithe, tiund, was probably imposed 
on Orkney and Shetland early in the twelfth century, 
at the same time as it was laid on Norway, by king 
SigurS jorsalafari (Jerusalem-farer or crusader), who 
had been earl of Orkney until his father's death 
in 1103. 

The bishop and his retinue exercised great influence 
in the islands. The nature of the civil jurisdiction of 
the church over the clergy and over the occupiers of 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 225 

church lands remains to be more fully explained. 
We are informed, in 1369,' that the bishop had juris- 
diction of holy church, lay and learned, without let or 
hindrance from the earl's and king's representatives. 
In 1490, the Scottish government erected the bishopric 
into a regality, with civil courts and officers of its own, 
having civil jurisdiction over all occupiers of church 
land, 2 which probably merely confirmed the powers 
previously exercised by the bishop under the Nor- 
wegian government. 


The early oral laws of Norway were recited by the 
law-speaker. On the foundation of Norw r ay, as a united 
kingdom, by Harald harfagri, in 872, new laws were 
framed. Further new laws were framed by king Hakon 
hinn goSi (the good), 935-961, and by king Olaf hinn 
helgi (the holy), 1015-1030, including church and canon 
law. During the reign of king Magnus hinn goSi (the 
good), 1035-1047, " St. Olaf's Law " was taken down 
in writing in Grdgds (Greygoose), a record which is 
now lost. Old Gulathing Law was taken down about 
iioo, and New Gulathing Law was adopted in 1275, 
while various amendments and ordinances were effected 
nfter that. 

Undoubtedly the Orkney vikings took their Nor- 
wegian oral laws, log, and law-speaker, logsogumaftr, 
with them to the islands. In the period from the 
colonisation down till the enactment of New Gulathing 
Law, in 1275, the islands may have exercised a measure 
of legislative independence ; although it is hard to 
believe that at the foundation of the earldom, in 872, 
Harald did not have his new laws adopted there also. 
Likewise the new Christian laws of St. Olaf must also 
have been adopted in the islands. 

Although the Norwegian parliament, logging, had 
legislative power, such power was mainly confined to 
the adoption of new laws and amendments, framed and 

iD.N., I., 308. a P.R.,App. 


226 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

proposed by the king or his council a nominal power, 
not unlike in nature to that possessed to-day by 
cathedral chapters in the election of bishops, in which 
there is no alternative but to elect the king's nominee, 
notwithstanding the conge d'elire. 

The references in the saga to legislation in Orkney 
are as follows. It is related, in 1048, that earl J>orfinn 
turned his mind to ruling the people and land and to 
law-giving : a laga-setning. This was shortly after the 
compilation of Grdgds, 1035-1047, and may merely refer 
to the amendments introduced at that time, if not to 
the written code itself, which may have been transmitted 
to the earl of Orkney for adoption by his lawthing. In 
1116, earl Hakon set up new laws (setti ny log) in Ork- 
ney, which pleased the bcendr better than those which 
had been before (ao>). This, again, coincides with the 
recording of Old Gulathing Law, circa iioo, which 
may have been sent to Orkney for adoption. 

In 1137, in order to raise money for the completion 
of St. Magnus' cathedral, earl Rognvald was advised 
/cera log a, to bring up [for consideration, with the 
ostensive object of amelioration], an existing law which 
was felt to be rather hard, viz., that law by which the 
earls had hitherto inherited all 6Sul after all bcendr 
[generation after generation], so that the heirs of these 
bcendr had [either (i)] to redeem these 65ul [generation 
after generation], in order to regain possession of their 
ancestral 6Sul, [or otherwise (2) to continue in occupa- 
tion of these 6'Sul as hereditary tenants, involving the 
payment of land rent to the earls]. Then the earl called 
a )>ing and offered the bcendr to allow them to buy, 
kaupa, their 6Sul, so that there would be no need to, 
redeem, leysa them, thereafter, which was agreed to. 1 

1 The translation of Orkn. renders fcera log d : bring in a law, 
whereas it should be bring uf an existing law (see Fritzner s.v., 
fcera, med praep. a). This clearly explains this, hitherto obscure 
passage. The ' existing law ' must refer to that by which earl Torf- 
Einar acquired the 6Sul in 895 (see ante], which 6Sul remained; 
unredeemed, in the possession of the earls until 995, when earl 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 227 

A mark had to be paid for every ploughland. As a 
plogsland is estimated by Vigfusson at one acre, and 
in Snorra Edda as equivalent to what four oxen could 
plough in a day and night, and as a markland in Ork- 
ney averages a little more than an acre, 1 it has been 
suggested that this may have been the origin of this 
land denomination. 2 Did the Shetlanders also have ro 
buy their 65ul ? 

Sigurd digri gaf upp Orkneyingum oftul sin : gave u-p to the 
Orkneyingar their of>ul; which gift would thus only have been for 
one generation, after which the 6Sul would again revert to the earls. 
During the whole cf the period, 895-995 5 (during which the 6Sul 
remained unredeemed in the hands of the earls) the bcendr, as 
hereditary tenants, must have paid rent to the earls. King Olaf 
Tryggvason's account of the transaction was that king Harald 
harfagri took as his own all the lands in Orkney and Shetland in 
consequence of the slaughter of his son, and that earl Torf-Einar 
paid the king sixty gold marks [as the redemption price of the lands], 
and so acquired all these lands [the d5ul in Orkney and Shetland ; 
the Orkney saga is explicit in only mentioning the 6Sul in Orkney 
as having been acquired by the earl] which he held as a fief from 
the king. 

1 Proceed., S. A. Scot, 1884, 274. 

- If the mark of land in the Hebrides is of the same origin as that 
in Orkney and Shetland, it would appear to make the above supposition 
improbable. Moreover, a ploughland was of uniform area, whereas the 
mark of land, representing its purchase value, varied considerably in 
extent. Fritzner explains O.N. plogsland : arable land On the 
basis of the eyrisland rent-valuation (see infra, Taxation), % eyris- 
land ( 6 pennylands= i * ertogland) X 24 years' purchase = i 
mark. Was eyrisland the plogsland of the saga? It has been 
calculated that the pennyland in Orkney contains from 4 to 13 acres 
(Proceed. S. A. Scot., 1884. 277), so that J eyrisland, or 6 penny- 
lands, would contain from 24 to 78 acres. Can the plogsland of 
Flateyjarbok (in which this part of Orkn. is alone preserved) be an 
extension of a possible contraction pgsland, in the original, for 
* peningsland? a term, ' pennyland,' only known in Orkney and 
the west with which the Flateyjarbok copyist would have been un- 
familiar, while pgsland would also be the contracted form of 
plogsland. If a mark had been paid for a pennyland ( T ' s eyris- 
land), the price of an eyrisland would have been 18 
marks, as against 3 marks, the redemption price of an 
eyrisland at 24 years' purchase. In the silver valuation of Orkney 
the pennyland was valued at from i to 12 and more marks, 

228 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

During the union of Norway, Denmark and Sweden, 
1389-1523, New Gulathing Law, together with subse- 
quent amendments of the thirteenth and fourteenth cen- 
turies, were the principal source of law, viz., " St. 
Olaf's law and the good old customs," which the kings 
swore to maintain in Norway. 1 

That the Orkney and Shetland law-book, I'dg-bok, 
was an edition of New Gulathing Law seems clear from 
the following references. In 1420 the feoffee, lensmaftr, 
of the earldom undertook to rule Orkney according to 
the Norwegian law-book and old customs. 2 In 1425 
the Orkneyingers petitioned the crown to uphold king 
Olaf's law and subsequent ordinances, 3 precisely as in 
the royal oath above quoted. In 1538, a district court, 
rettr, in Shetland gave its decision in accordance with 
Gulathing Law, which decision was attested as sound 
by the king's council in Bergen. 4 While in the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was the tradition 
in the islands that their laws were received from St. 
6laf. 5 One Scottish bishop was so at sea in the matter 
that he explained that one Udillaus was sent by the 
king of Norway to divide the land in Orkney into 
pennylands, hence udal land. 6 He had turned Ulaus 

so that one mark, for the outright purchase of a pennyland, in 
1137, would not have been exorbitant as compared with the possible 
recurrent redemption price of mark (i.e., ^ eyrir X 24 years' 
purchase = ij eyrir mark). The redemption price would 
undoubtedly have been maintained on the basis of the eyrisland 
valuation in 895, when the lands were acquired by the earl; but, 
possibly at a nominal and less rate than 24 years' purchase, as other- 
wise each bdndi would have paid back the fine every time a suc- 
cessive generation redeemed the land, and if i mark was paid for 
each pennyland in 1137, the earl would have received back six 
times more than the sum for which it was originally acquired in 

J Ud. N.H., i., 69. 2 D.N., ii., 489. S D.N., vi., 449. 

4 O.S.R. I., 70. 

5 Gifford's Zetland (reprint), 47, 48; Brand's Description (reprint), 
41; Hibbert's Shetland, 193, 275; Sibbald's Description, 81. 
' P.R. No. iii., 18, 20. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 229 

into Udillaus, by way of folk-etymology. Moreover, 
the little we do know of insular law corresponds 
with New Gulathing Law, e.g., (i) the daughter 
only inherited half as much as a son, whereas by Old 
G.L. she inherited nothing; (2) the eldest son had the 
first choice of the head house, whereas Old G.L. has 
no ordinance on the subject. 

The old customs, forn or gdmul sifivenja, or consue- 
tudinary law, referred to in the royal oath, would 
include immemorial rights of foreshore, common pas- 
turage, etc. ; and in certain cases fishing rights, which, 
in some cases flowed from royal grants ; these were the 
emoluments, lunnendi, of 6Sal deeds. 


The original Norwegian J>ing appears to have been 
a primary assembly of freeholders, oftalsmenn or haul- 
dar. By the time of Old Gulathing Law the general 
assembly was called the law-thing, logging, and con- 
sisted of paid representatives from the various districts, 
nominated by the king's deputies; the king was repre- 
sented by his deputies, lendirmenn and drmenn, barons 
and stewards, and the church by the bishops and priests. 
In 1164, the compulsory presence of the priests was 
limited to two from each fylki, who were nominated by 
their bishops. The representative system arose from 
the enlargement of the ]>ing-districts and the growth of 
the royal power. 

From among these nominated men the king's depu- 
ties nominated a smaller selection, called the 16gre"tta, 
which inquired into and arranged the cases before the 
decision of the j'ing was given. These 16gre"ttumenn 
were also representative of districts, and were paid. 

It will thus be apparent that the Norwegian parlia- 
ment of historic times was, like the contemporary Saxon 

230 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

assembly, 1 purely a body of royal nominees and 
churchmen without a vestige of democratic election. 

There is not the slightest indication that the earl of 
Orkney had, like the earls in Norway, lendirmenn, 
under him, ruling the islands. The only appear- 
ance in the saga of a local j>ing is a laun-fying, or 
secret meeting, held in Westrey. We can only assume 
that the earldom was, as in Norway, divided into 
districts with district assemblies, the predecessors of the 
bailie courts. In Shetland we find notices of parish 
courts and officials and also of a "varding," varying a 
spring court. 2 

From .evidence given below it will be seen that the 
Orkney lawthing remained a primary assembly. 
The representative nature of the persons serving in the 
Orkney logretta has been shown by mr. J. Storer 
Clouston in the Saga-Book, VII., 100. 

The references in the saga to the J>ing and laws are 
as follows. In the ninth century a fine was exacted 
from the whole community for the slaughter of the 
king's son at the instigation of the earl ; land was held 
in 65al, with the right of redeeming alienated 6Sal. In 
the eleventh century earl Einar rangmunnr held J>ing 
in spring with the bcendr; earl Einar's slaughter was 
atoned for as for three lendirmenn, and his third part 
of the earldom was confiscated by the king of Norway, 
for the- slaughter of the king's hirSmaSr, Eyvind lirar- 
horn, and afterwards given in len to one of the 
other two earls. In 1106, earl Hakon killed the 
king's syslumaftr, steward, who was looking after 
Magnus' share of the earldom. In in6, the two ruling 
earls met at the J?ingsta5r in Hrossey (Mainland), and 

1 The National Assembly in the Anglo-Saxon Period, by Professor F. 
Liebermann, pp. 38 seqq. 

- Opp. O.Z., 71. A varying was held in Jamtland in 1463 (D.N., 
iii., 627) Hitherto the Shetland ' varding ' has been explained as 
varS-))ing, but there is no such term on record, and a 'beacon- 
assembly' is not probable. Logging > logging in Shetland and 
elsewhere (D.N., i., 81 and N.G.L.), hence : varying > varying > 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 231 

came to terms and bound their agreement with oaths 
and handsal. Earl St. Magnus stated that it was siftr 
ok log, custom and law, of men of old that the execu- 
tioner should have the clothes of the person executed. 
In 1128, earl Pal is described as a man of few words, 
and no speaker at the J'ing. In 1137, Svein was out- 
lawed and his estates forfeited for the slaughter of the 
earl's hirftmaftr, one of his bodyguard; a launfying, a 
secret J'ing, was held in West rev ; a J'ing was held in 
Hrossey (Mainland) at which there were present rikis- 
menn, mighty men, bcendr, njosnar, spies, and a skald ; 
earl Rognvald constantly held J'ing with the bcendr, 
because he had to do with mighty men, stormenn, who 
were against him; he held one J'ing in Kirkwall. 
In 1151, earl Rognvald called a full .J'ing in spring, 
in Hrossey, which was attended by all the hoffiingjar, 
chiefs. In 1152, earl Erlend and Svein summoned a 
J'ing of the bcendr in Kirkwall, to w r hich they came 
from all the isles ; at this J>ing the king's brief was read, 
which gave earl Erlend earl Harald's half of the earl- 
dom, to which the bcendr promised obedience. Harald 
had got his half of the earldom from Rognvald by 
private arrangement and not as a len, fief, from the 
king. In 1154, eai "l Rognvald held a hushing (a house- 
thing, summoned by a trumpet, in cases of emergency ; 
a war council), regarding the invasion by earl Erlend 
and Svein. A sdtiar-ftmdr, peace meeting, was held 
between Svein and the earls, at which it was agreed 
that Svein should make peace by the payment of a mark 
of gold to each of the two earls, lose half of his lands 
and his good longship. In 1155, another sattarfundr 
was held in St. Magnus' cathedral, in which had been 
stored the sail of Svein 's forfeited longship, and at 
which earl Rognvald attended with a broad-axe. 1 

1 In accordance with old Gulajnngslog, a breiftox was one of the weapons 
which had to be borne in a levy by each armaSr and lendrmaftr breiftox 
or sverS (sword), sf>jbt (spear) and skjoldr (shield) while each bondi had 
to be provided with tvennar tylftit orva ok bogi einn, two-twelves, i.e., 24, 
arrows and one bow. 

232 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

In 1194, Shetland was forfeited to Norway (skat tr and 
skyld public taxes and the rents of the earldom landed 
estate), for the part the earl had in the rebellion against 
king Sverrir. The estates in Orkney and Shetland of 
the rebels who fell at Floruvoe were also forfeited, but 
were redeemable, within three years, by their kinsmen. 
Shetland was taken under the king's own control, as 
well as one-half of all the fines in Orkney. After this 
the foguti the king's bailiff, was appointed to Shetland. 1 

From the foregoing references we find that as late 
as 1152, a )>ing of the bcendr was held in Orkney, lo 
which they came from all the isles ; a primary 
assembly, which would have had its logretta. This 
was fifty years after the recording of Old Gulathing 
Law in Norway, where the lawthing of Gulathing was 
attended by nominated and paid delegates. As Orkney 
was such a comparatively small place it seems unlikely 
that provision would have been made for the appoint- 
ment and payment of delegates, so that the assembly 
would remain primary. 

During 1273-1299 Shetland was in the appanage of 
duke Hakon, who became king in the latter year. 

The next notice we have is of a logging in Shetland 
in I299 2 (twenty-four years after the adoption of New 
Gulathing Law), which was attended by the logSingis- 
menn. In 1307, the lawman, eleven men and all the 
logrettumenn of Shetland held a court [logretta of the 
logging ?] at Tingwall, at which the decision was given 
by the lawman, with the special advice, rdS, and con- 
sent of handgengnirmenn [the eleven ?] and logrettu- 
menn. 3 The handgengnirmenn may have been in the 
service of the king or the lawman, as underfouds. 

In 1379, Shetland was restored to the earl of Orkney. 
It has not yet been shown on what terms Shetland was 
handed back. In 1386, the king's steward, drottseti, 
awarded certain lands in Shetland to the rightful 

1 Sverr. S., 156, 157; Orkn., 231, 235. 
2 D.N., I., 81. 3 D.N., I., 97. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 233 

owners, as they had been illegally taken possession of 
by Malis Sperra. 1 

The earl of Orkney died in 1404, and the next earl, 
his grandson, was invested in 1434. During this inter- 
regnum the earldom of Orkney and lordship of Shet- 
land were given out in len, fief, to various persons. In 
a grant of a part of Shetland, north of Mawed, in 1412, 
the grantee received skatt, landskyld and wesel (wattle, 
O.N. veizla, entertainment), with all royal right except 
}>egngildi, weregild of a }>egn, thane or freeman, and 
friftkaup, the price at which peace had to be bought 
from the king by one outlawed for manslaughter. 2 

In 1433, the burgesses of Kirkwall had to observe the 
statute of the country. 3 In the last len of the earldom 
in I434, 4 the earl, as in the len of 1379, had to 
serve the king with one hundred men-at-arms out of 
Orkney, and had to be answerable for his faults to the 
king and council, in accordance with the law of 

The first notice we have of an assembly [logretta of 
the lawthing ?] in Orkney since sagatime, is of one held 
before 1438 (either in 1434-1438 or 1404 or before), in 
the vestry of St. Magnus' cathedral, consisting of 
sundry goodmen of the country. 5 Before 1438 (1434- 
1438 or 1404 or earlier), a hirSmannastefna was held by 
the earl and the ' gentles ' of the country regarding a 
land dispute which had been debated in the above- 
mentioned meeting [logretta of the lawthing], and 
which had been reported to the hirfimannastefna, meet- 
ing of the earl's bodyguard. 

Orkney was wadset by Norway to Scotland in 1468, 
in the following terms : 

Damus, concedimus, impignoramus ac sub firma 

hypotheca et pignore imponimus atque hypothecamus 

omnes et singulas terras nostras insularum Orcaden- 

sium cum omnibus et singulis juribus, serviciis ac 

iD.N., I., 366. 2 D.N., II., 466. O.S.R., I., 246. 

'N.G.L. (anden raekke), 137. 5 O.S.R., I.. 45. 

234 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

justis suis pertinentiis nobis regali jure . . . tenendas 
et habendas totas et integras terras nostras insularum 
Orcadensium pr?edictarum unacum omnibus et 
singulis custumis, profiscuis, libertatibus, commodit- 
atibus ac aliis justis suis pertinentiis, quibuscunque, 
tarn nominatis quam innominatis. etc. 1 


Give, grant, wadset, and under strict hypothec and 
pledge do set and hypothecate all and sundry our 
lands of the islands of Orkney, with all and sundry 
rights, services, and their just pertinents, belonging 
to us by royal right . . . to hold and to have all and 
whole our lands of the islands of Orkney aforesaid, 
together with all and sundry customs, profits, free- 
doms, commodities and their other just pertinents 
whatsoever, as well named as not named. 

The wadset was redeemable on the payment of the 
principal sum of 50,000 Rhenish florins (,20,833, 
Opp. O.Z., xii.), by the king of Norway or his suc- 
cessors. Shetland was wadset in the following year 
for 8,000 florins (Hvitfeldt, 921). 

The hirSmannastefna, which was held by the earl 
before 1438, consisted of his hirft or bodyguard, who 
were appropriately described as the ' gentles ' of the 
country. We have notice of a hirSmannastefna held 
by lord Robert Stewart in 1574, when it is described as 
a ' sheriffcourt called the hermanstein,' and at which 
lands were escheated for theft. This latter court 
consisted of twenty-seven members, including some 
Shetland landowners. Lord Robert Stewart attempted 
to revive all the prerogatives of the old Norse regime, 
and naturally would wish to have his hirft or body- 
guard, which actually included some Shetlanders, and 
was therefore not an exclusively Orkney court. 

Lord Robert Stewart alleged " himself to be as free 
lord and heritor of Orkney and Zetland as the king of 

P.R. app. ; Torfseus' Orcades (1697), 195. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 235 

Scotland is in his own realm, or the queen of England, 
or the king of France in France, and makes his vante, 
that in case he be put at by the king's majesty's autho- 
rity, to give the haill countrys into the king of 
Denmark's hands." 

After 1468, we have the following notices of the 
lawthing in Orkney and Shetland. 

In 1510, a court [logretta of the lawthing] was 
held at Tingwall, which carried out the decree 
of the [logretta of the] lawthing of Orkney ; the 
lawman at this time being lawman of both Orkney 
and Shetland. 2 In 1538, a rettr, (district) court, was 
held in Shetland by the lawman, local lawrightmen, 
logrettumenn, and other good men, whose verdict was 
afterwards certified as correct by the king's court 
in Bergen. 3 In 1576, it was reported to the royal 
commission, who were taking evidence as to lord 
Robert Stewart's oppressions in the islands, that the 
lawthing of Shetland was the head court of the county 
in which the assize [i.e., logretta] gave decreets and the 
members of the law r thing were all persons having land, 
heritage and great taks, leases, from the king. 4 The 
court book of Patrick Stewart, earl of Orkney, 1602- 
1604,* gives a detailed account of the circuit and head 
courts in Shetland. In 1538, a lawman of Shetland 
was appointed by Norway. 6 There can be little doubt 
that Norway used every opportunity of keeping alive 
her right of redeeming the islands, by making con- 
current appointments to those made by Scotland and 
by encouraging insular references to the Norwegian 

The exact relationship between the insular and 
Norwegian king's council and law courts has to be 
cleared up. As has also been shown, the earl of 
Orkney was answerable to the king's council in Norway. 

'Opp. O.Z., 5. 2 O.S.R., I., 60. 'Ibid, 73. 4 Opp. O.Z., 44, 58. 
5 Peterkin's Notes, app. Original MS. in the Register House, Edin- 
burgh. 6 Norske Rigsregistranter, I., 57. 

236 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

In Orkney, in 1509 and after, we have notices of 
several " ogangs, " district courts, 1 held by the lawman, 
the justice and the worthiest and best of the land, 
" landedmen roythmen," or " roythmen and royth- 
men's sons"; the lawman gave the decree with the 
advice of the " doomsmen " and, in one instance sealed 
the decreet on behalf of the "roythmen." The lawthing 
was held in 1509 and after, the members of the court 
being described as above. After 1519, the members of 
the lawthing court, logretta, are merely described as the 
"assize," as they were later on in Shetland. 

With regard to the terms " roythmen " and " royth- 
men's sons," the terms " royth " and " roythman " 
were used in Orkney, in I544 2 and after, as meaning 
the right of redeeming oo'al, and the person who had 
that right. 3 This is undoubtedly derived from O.N. 
rd5, rule, management, the. raS which the oSalsmenn 
exercised in alienating, as well as in redeeming, 
their 65ul. The same meaning must be attached to 
the roythmen as members of the logretta of the 
lawthing, viz., a class of persons who were 
eligible for nomination as members of the logretta 
or lawthing court, in virtue of their being 65albornir. 
The obvious explanation is that the members of 
the lawthing court or assize, logretta, were chosen 
from, the landed men, roythmen and their sons, 4 
which was their property qualification ; whereas their 
character qualification consisted in their being the 
worthiest, best, and good men. They had to be honest 
and respectable landowners or persons having the rdS 
or right to alienated estates, and their sons, who were 
oSalbornir. There is no indication that the term 
roythman was borrowed from the designation radman 
or raadman, O.N. rdSraaSr, used for a member of the 
konungs rd5, king's council, or the boejar rdS, town 

'O.S.R., I., 251. 2 Reg. Gt. Seal, Scot. 

O.S.R., I., 259. "O.S.R., I., 254. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 237 

council of Bergen. 1 If such a use of the word had been 
copied from Norway, one would have expected Shet- 
land to have also done so, considering its closer con- 
nexion with the mother country. It would be a 
contradiction in terms and an absurdity to require that 
one must be a councillor in order to be eligible for 
election as a councillor. Orkney may have been under 
bjarkeyarrettr, town law, and Kirkwall may have had 
a b 02 jar raS, town council, of which the rdfimenn, town 
councillors, were represented in the lawthing and its 
logretta. But this would not explain the " roythman's 
son " designation. Technically the term roythmen 
was applicable to all 65alsmenn, and we find their sons 
on the assize, designated as ' younger.' 2 

The occurrence of the term lawrightman, Ibgrettu- 
maftr, in Orkney, puts rdSmaSr, councillor, out of 
court. There is one instance of the " landedmen and 
roythmen," in an assize, being described as "at that 
time," a term applied to officials, whereas the term 
" present at that time " was applied to unofficial per- 
sons. This instance occurs in a bungled docket on the 
back of a doom of the assize of the lawthing in 1516 : 
" The dome of the best landit men in [deleted] and 
royhtmen in Orkna at that ty [deleted] tyme " ; in 
which doom it is stated that the doom was dempt before 
the " justice of Orkney for the time." by 20 " worthy 
persons " (some of whom were " younger "), who col- 
lectively, as "doomsmen," gave their "doom." The 
docket can have one of three possible interpretations, 
viz. (i) landedmen and roythmen, in Orkney at that 
time, i.e., present in Orkney at that time, " in Orkney " 
being qualified by "at that time " ; (2) landedmen and 
roythmen (in Orkney) at that time, which would mean 

1 Mackenzie's Grievances (1750), reprint, app. ii., iv., and pp. n, 
12, in which the assize of lawthing = ratmen = raadmen, coun- 
cillors, and hence the fictitious Orkney and Shetland raadmen of 
modern glossaries. 

2 Ibid., 252. 

238 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

that the landowners and roythmen were reckoned as 
officials, an explanation which would involve a number 
of absurdities ; or (3) landedmen and roythmen in 
Orkney, \_doomsmen or assisemen; or present] at that 
time. 1 The original document is in the Record Room, 
Sheriff Clerk's Office, Kirkwall. The terms " landed- 
men roythmen," " landedmen and roythmen," " royth- 
men and roythmen's sons, "are all explicit definitions of 
the qualification of logrettumenn : they had to be land- 
owners who were oftalsmenn or their sons, i.e., 6Sals- 
bcendr, as opposed to bcendr in the possession of 
bought land, a distinction and qualification which dis- 
appeared, with the term roythmen, when the assize was 
packed with persons other than oSalsmenn. 

Besides the lawthing, ogangs and retts, there were 
also courts of arbiters and the bailie courts ; which 
latter may have been the continuation of the district- 
j>ing. In Shetland the parish foud and bailie were 
synonymous terms. 2 The justice of Orkney and the 
foud, foguti, of Shetland, sometimes one and the same 
person, represented the executive, and were similar to 
the syslumaoV of Norway. In Shetland the foud was 
also the receiver of the public taxes and of the rents of 
the earldom lands. 

There were precisely similar officers in both Orkney 
and Shetland : lawman, justice or foud, underfouds 
(or bailies) and lawrightmen. The two latter terms are 
seldom used in Orkney. The Shetland lawrightman, 
in 1576 and before, is described as an officer in every 
isle and parish, who was chosen by the common con- 
sent and election of the foud and commons, as their 
procurator and defender, to keep the weights and 
measures by which their taxes were paid, and to see 

1 As ' for the time,' is the usual official, and ' present at that time,' 
the usual unofficial designation, and as the docket term, ' at that 
time,' is part of the latter, probably ' '-present ' has been omitted. 

2 Opp. O.Z., 58. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 239 

that the taxes were justly measured. He was also 
specially chosen, for his discretion and judgment, to 
be chancellor of the assize in all courts, where he had 
to settle any legal questions and show the law, use and 
practice thereon, and to inform the assize and to pro- 
nounce decreets. For this service he was paid by the 
commons. 1 This payment may have been direct, or 
it may have been provided for in the skatt. The greater 
part of the skatt in Orkney and Shetland was undefined 
and was paid simply as butter-, malt-skatt, etc. 
Although leiSangr, war tax, is not specifically 
mentioned in the Orkney skatt, it, as the fundamental 
skatt, must of course be included in the general term 
skatt. One of the taxes paid in Orkney is called 
"forcop," fararkaup, travelling expenses, the term 
used in Gulathing Law for the wages paid to the levy. 
This term has hitherto been, incorrectly, explained as 
fyingfararkaup, the Icelandic term for the travelling 
expenses paid to those attending a j>ing; whereas the 
Norwegian terms are fyingfararfe in Frostathing, and 
fe in Gulathing. 

As regards the " Lawbook " of Orkney and Shetland, 
nothing is known of its existence after the judicial refer- 
ence to it in i6o2. 2 

It has been shown that Orkney and Shetland, so far 
as evidence goes, were under the same code, corres- 
ponding to New Gulathing Law, which would have 
made it possible for the same man to act as lawman, or 
expounder of the law, in both groups, which we know 
was the case. 

In 1611, after the downfall of Patrick Stewart, earl 
of Orkney, the Scottish privy council abrogated all 

. O.Z., 18, 27. 

2 Mackenzie's Grievances of O. and S., 6-7. The earl of Orkney referred 
to it in 1611, as " the auld Dans lawis by which they were governed." 
Peterkin's Notes, App. 86. The bishop, in 1642, remarked that 65al 
succession was in accordance with "the law of Norroway," P.R., 
III., 20. 

240 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

foreign laws in Orkney and Shetland, 1 as well as certain 
specified laws, " whether they be established by acts 
and ordinances or received by custom and observation 
of the country," 2 and declared that the islands were 
to be subject to the law of Scotland. A commission 
was issued to the bishop of Orkney and another to 
convocate and assemble the whole inhabitants to concur 
and assist them ; to make, prescribe and set down acts, 
statutes and ordinances for keeping the inhabitants 
under his majesty's obedience, and to hold sheriff and 
justice courts. 3 In 1615, the sheriffs depute held a court 
at which certain acts were passed by the sheriffs with 
advice and consent of the gentlemen suitors of court 
and commons, all with one advice, consent and assent/ 

In 1623, acts were passed by the sheriffs with the 
advice and consent of the gentlemen and bailies ot 
parishes and suitors of court. 5 In 1628, acts were 
passed by the sheriffs depute with consent of the whole 
gentlemen and suitors of court and commonalty present 
for the time. 6 

These courts would naturally be constituted and con- 
ducted on the same lines as the lawthing, their 
immediate predecessor, which they replaced ; a general 
assembly of the commons, a primary legislature, by 
whose consent acts were adopted, while legal decisions 
were given by an assize (logretta) chosen from the 
assembly. 7 

The office of lawrightman (logrettumaSr) appears, 
latterly, to have been divided into two distinct offices, 
held by different persons, viz., that of (i) a parochial 
" lawrightman," who looked after the interest of the 
commons in his district, and (2) a member of the assize 
(logretta) of the lawthing, chosen at the lawthing. 
Probably a fresh assize was chosen for each sitting of 
the court, or for each case. 

1 Peterkin's Notes, App. 64. *Ibid. 69. 

3 Ibid. 66. 4 Barry's Orkney, reprint, 1867, 412. 

5 Ib id. 421. e Ibid. 424. ''Ibid. 420. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 241 

The following questions remain to be answered : Was 
there one manuscript lawbook for both Orkney and 
Shetland, or had each its own copy ? Was the law- 
book of 1602 in old Norse, Danish or English ? If 
it was in old Norse, had it marginal explanations in 
English ? The possibility of a translation having been 
made seems highly probable, especially in Orkney, 
where Norse became generally extinct at an early date. 
The rentals of the earldom were translated circa 1490, 
if not earlier, and several old Norse charters bear a 
contemporary note, " put this into Inglis." As the 
lawrightman in Shetland had to " show the law " to 
his parochial assize, it seems to be self-evident that 
each lawrightman must have had a copy of the Law- 
book, in the same way as the later bailies had each 
to have a copy of the Acts of Bailliary (Barry's Orkney, 
1808, 469, 482). 


Skatt is assessed in Orkney and Shetland on the 
ounceland, eyrisland, which is subdivided into 18 
pennylands, and each pennyland into 4 farthinglands. 
In Norway the eyrir, ounce, of money = 30-60 pennies 
= mark of silver. The English and Scottish mark = 
135. 4d., of which ^ = 20 pence. The Orkney ounce of 
i8d. may be explained from the fact that a Shetland 
mark (paid in produce) was reckoned equal to 12 
shillings, of which J = i8d. The ounce, eyrir, in eyris- 
land, and the penny, penningr, in pennyland undoubt- 
edly represent the amount of the original land rent. 
Skatt was only assessed on cultivated land, and it 
ceased so long as the land was not cultivated. 

In 895, Orkney was fined 60 gold marks, as weregild 
for the slaughter of the king's son. It is not stated 
whether Shetland had to pay a share. This sum 
apparently represented the purchase value of the whole 

'O.S.R., I., 57. 

242 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

estates in Orkney, or in Orkney and Shetland, as other- 
wise the oSalsmenn would scarcely have given up their 
65ul as a quid pro quo. Sixty gold marks were 
equivalent to 480 silver marks 3,840 silver aurar. A 
very rough estimate of the eyrislands in Orkney, in 
1500-1595, gives about 170, which is probably much too 
little. If the eyrir in eyrisland represents the rent value 
in 895, then the 170 eyrir x 22^ years' purchase would 
equal the amount of the fine paid to Harald. In 
Denmark, circa 1200, land was valued at 24 years' pur- 
chase. 1 Of course it is just possible that Harald's fine 
did not amount to the full purchase value of the estates, 
so that Shetland may have been included ; but it seems 
unlikely that Shetland would have been fined for a 
crime committed in Orkney by Orkneymen. 

It is not known how many eyrislands there are in 
Shetland. In 1628, there were 13,392 marks of land 2 ; 
and one pennyland, or v? eyrisland, was valued at 8 
marks in I299. 1 On the assumption that the average 
value of a pennyland was four marks, as in Orkney, 
this would give 181 eyrislands in Shetland, or more 
than in Orkney. In the beginning of the I7th century 
the relative valuation of Orkney and Shetland was 
regarded as 2:1, for the purpose of assessing Scottish 
land tax 3 ; in 1912 the ratio was 1.34 : 1 ; in 1881, 1.91 : i ; 
in 1861, 1.57:1." Eyrisland is explained in Fritzner's 
Ordbog, as land paying an eyrir of rent. 

If, on the other hand, the eyrisland were a gold 
purchase-price valuation of Orkney and Shetland in 
895, corresponding with the amount of Harald's fine, 
then the Orkney eyrislands *i7o + the Shetland eyris- 
lands *i8i = 351, as compared with the 480 gold aurar 
of Harald's fine. On this supposition, and assuming 
that 129 eyrislands had gone astray, the difference 
between the gold valuation of 895 and the later sterling 

1 Orkney and Shetland Miscellany, I., 118. 

2 Goudie's Shetland, 177. 
8 Peterkin's Notes, 153. 

4 Tudor's Orkneys, 202. 412. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 243 

silver mark valuation, 1 is as i : 72 ; i.e., i gold eyris- 
land = i silver mark in 895, whereas the average value 
of the eyrisland in sterling silver marks, was 72 (eyris- 
land = 1 8 penny lands x average 4 marks). The lowest 
silver valuation was 18 marks, and the highest 360. 
The burnt silver mark valuation of Orkney was 
the English mark of 135. 4d. (D.N. II., 146, A.D., 
1329; Proceeds. S.A.Scot., 1884, 273). In England, 
2os. in 1329 = 66s. in present coins (see McCulloch's 
Coinml. Diet., s.v. Coins), so that the English mark 
of 1329 would be = 445. in present coins. Dasent cal- 
culated that the Norse mark of the loth century = 36 
shillings sterling (Burnt Njal, II., 404), but it was 
probably of the same value as the English mark 
which was current in Orkney in 1329. Assuming 
that the eyrisland valuation is that of the silver-rent 
in 872, then the rent of an eyrisland in 872 was one 
eyrir, or | old Norse burnt mark silver = 55. 6d. stg., 
as compared with 295. 4d. sterling in 1500, in Orkney, 
i.e., as i : 5.3, an increase which seems reasonable. 
The latter calculation is arrived at as follows : the 
eyrisland of i8d. lands was valued in 1500, on the aver- 
age at 72 sterling marks silver (4 marks per d.) on 
which rent was charged, on the average, at the rate of 
lod. Scots, and the ratio of Sterling to Scots, at that 
time was i : 3f; 2 so that 72 marks x rod. Scots = 72od. 
Scots = 2ood. stg. = 295. 4d. stg., in present coins, 
silver rent per eyrisland. 

The eyrisland valuation must have been made in 872, 
for the assessment of the skatt which Harald imposed 
for the support of the government of his earl. The 
ounceland, or tirung, and pennyland of the Hebrides 
must be explained in the same way. 

It can be proved by the rental of 1500 (P.R., I), that 
kviar, Orkn. quoys, folds or enclosures, in the com- 

1 The earliest record of the mark valuation is in 1299, O.S.R., I., 38. 

1 Prsceeds S. A. Scot., 1884, p. 255. McCulloch's. Comml. 

Diet, s.v., 

244 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

mons, which presumably had been brought under 
cultivation after the original eyrisland valuation had 
been made, were also valued and included in the skatt- 
roll. It is obvious that such new land would not have 
been let off skatt-free in the early vigour of the Norse 
fiscal system. It may, therefore, be safely assumed 
that Harald's fine amounted to the price of the taxable 
land in Orkney in 895, and was calculated, on the basis 
of the then existing eyrisland or rental valuation, at 
twenty-four years' purchase. This would give 160 
eyrislands in Orkney, in 895, or about 10 less than in 
1500, which seems a reasonable allowance for the sub- 
sequent increase of cultivated and taxable land. 1 

The value of the marks of land in Orkney had 
evidently decreased considerably in value by 1500, 
when land, formerly worth a mark of 135. 4d. stg. (the 
sterling mark of 1329 would be = 255. stg. in 1500), 
was let for a payment of produce, worth rod. and i2d. 
Scots, =2-g-d. and 3^d. stg. Whereas in 1602, mark 
(6s. 8d. stg.) of land was sold for 435. 4d. stg. ; 2 
and in 1603, 6 marks (^4 6s. 8d.) was sold for 20 
stg. 3 At this time sterling to Scots money was 
i : 12, and the sterling mark of 1329 = 415. 4d. stg., 
so that the land was sold for about double its mark 

1 Comparative value of Orkney in 895 and 1912 : 
A D. Rent. Value at 24 years' purchase. 

895- /44- i56. 

1912. 87,920. 2,110,080, including Kirkwall and Stromness. 
1912. 65,254. i, 566, 096. excluding Kirkwall and Stromness, 
Banks and Bu of Orphir g|d. land. 

895. o2s.9j|d. 3 73. lod. 
1906. 85. 2,040. 

Including the towns, Orkney was about 2,000, and excluding the 
towns, 1,483 times more valuable in 1912 than 895; whereas the Bu 
of Oiphir was only 601 times more valuable; but Orkney now 
includes a large area of new land. 

2 O.S.R., I., 272. 

3 Ibid., 221. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 245 

The earl's acquisition of the 6Sul in Orkney in 
exchange for the fine which he paid for the oSalsmenn 
placed them in the same position as the oSalsmenn in 
Norway, where Harald appropriated all the oo'ul and 
the 65alsmenn became his vassals and tenants. In both 
cases the 6Sul were ultimately restored to the oSalsmenn, 
in order to gain their support. The Heimskringla, in 
one version, states that Harald himself took possession 
of the 6Sul in Orkney, and gave them to earl Einar as 
a len or fief. Pennylands were, at a later date, valued 
at their purchase price in burnt silver marks of 135. 4d. 
sterling each, and on this valuation land rent was 
charged in Orkney down till 1600. The eyrislands of 
Orkney are mentioned in I263. 1 In Shetland the marks 
of land ceased to be used as the uniform basis of rent 
charge as early as the sixteenth century, when land was 
leased at so many pennies per mark, the penny repre- 
senting the actual currency value of the rent paid in 
produce. This method continued in use in Shetland 
until the eighteenth century. The pennyland and 
eyrisland valuation of Shetland is now lost; there is 
only one record of a pennyland in Papey, in 1299, 
when its purchase price was valued at eight silver marks 
(=i gold mark), on which the rent was then charged, 
as in Orkney. 2 

The purchase value in marks of the pennylands in 
Orkney varies considerably. Land in the north isles 
had not increased so much in value as in the Mainland 
(Hrossey). This is undoubtedly accounted for by the 
fact that the north isles (excepting Rousey, Edey and 
Westrey), are flat and without heath or moorland, and 

1 Hak. S., 365-366, where eyrisland is translated, geldable land and 
crown estate ! 

3 O.S.R., I., 38; Old-Lore Miscellany, I., 117-119. It is assumed 
that the mark valuation was made previous to 1299 and continued 
unaltered ; but it is possible that it may have been amended from 
time to time. This valuation was only used for charging rent and 
for the division of oftal inheritance, except in Shetland, where it 
was latterly also used for tithing purposes. 

246 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

consequently more easily cultivated. They would have 
been cultivated to their full capacity when the first 
valuation was made. Whereas the Mainland, with its 
heaths, hills, streams and alluvial soil, provided, as it 
still does, considerable scope for breaking in new land 
capable of improvement. In Sandey, as its name 
implies, sand drift formed a serious impediment to its 
cultivation. The relative value of Orphir (Mainland 
parish), to Sandey (north isle), is in pennylands, as 
i : 7, whereas the present rental ratio is i : 2. When 
the markland valuation was made, the average value 
of a pennyland in Sandey was ij marks, and in Orphir 
8 marks or over. 


Five generations of continuous ownership of land 
converted the estate into an oo'al, its owner into an 
oSalsma'Sr, and his son oSalborinn. The 6Sal could 
not be alienated without being first offered to the nearest 
heir, and, when alienated, it could be redeemed again. 

Before 1275, 65'ul were inherited equally by the sons 
only; but, after that date, daughters inherited one- 
half of a son's share, and the eldest son had the first, 
choice of the head house, hbfuftbol, hofufiboeli-, and 
this was the law in Orkney and Shetland until the six- 
teenth century. 

On the introduction of Christianity, the church 
speedily got rid of the inability of the 65alsmenn to 
bequeath land and goods to the church, by the enact- 
ment of laws which permitted oSalsmenn to give 
a hofufttiund and dvaxtartiund, a lithe of stock given 
once in one's lifetime (usually on the deathbed), and an 
annual tithe of income. Latterly the law allowed oSals- 
menn to give away tiundargjb'f, a tenth of inherited land 
and loose goods, and fjdrftungsgjb'f, a fourth of self- 
acquired land and loose goods, terms which appear in 
Orkney charters as " tiend penny and the ferd." These 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. . 247 

gifts could be left to anyone, and were redeemable in 
the usual way. 

Upon the death of an 65alsma(5r, a court was held on 
the seventh day afterwards, and accordingly called a 
sjaund, at which the property was divided. 

As early as 1544, primogeniture crept into Orkney,' 
fortified by crown charters, 1 and is now general. 


In 1500, we have the last relic of butter currency in 
Orkney, when 2id. of butter=i spann. 2 In Shetland, 
butter and cloth currency was in use until the seven- 
teenth century ; an ell of va5mal being = 2d.-vaSmal, 
and 4 marks weight of butter = id. -butter, and i lispund 
of butter = 6d.-butter. 3 In 1575, 2d.-vaSmal = 2s. Scots. 4 


The information on this subject is too meagre and 
uncertain to arrive at any safe conclusion at present. 
The only certainty is that the weights and measures 
were fixed by law in Orkney and Shetland in 1828, and 
they differ in amount. 

The spann, butter measure, of 2 id. butter, is men- 
tioned in Orkney in 1500, as equivalent in current 
market value to 4 lispunds of butter; and 20 lispunds 
of butter as equivalent in value to a barrel of butter. 
The lispund, lifspund, linspund, and the setting, 
settungr, are, contrary to Norwegian custom, each 
divided into 24 marks. As in Norway, 6 settings =i 
meil (mcelir). 5 

In Norway the bismarapund = 24 marks; a sub- 
division which probably got transferred to the lispund 
and setting in Orkney and Shetland. But here we must 
leave the subject, which can only be elucidated by a 

^t. Seal Reg., Scot. 

2 P.R., No. I. 

3 MS. rental with Viking Society; Goudie's Shetland, 178. 

4 Opp. O.Z., 27. 

5 P.R., No. I. 

248 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

large and systematic accumulation of facts, and by a 
thorough examination and study of the weights and 
measures of Norway and the Hebrides. 


Classes. In Gulajnngslog, circa 1100, society was 
grouped into five main classes : (i) thralls, (2) freed 
thralls, (3) free men and freeholders, (4) noblemen, 
feoffees of crown lands, (5) earls and king. The last 
four classes were further divided into seven grades, 
stig, so far as the payment of wergild, bot, was 


1. unfree, ufrjdls : }>rcell, pi. \rcelar, thrall. 

2. f reed-man : leysingi, pi. leysingiar, freed 

thrall :- 

(a) leysingi of the first four generations, 

who was still dependent on the 
original owner. i 

(b) leysingssonr, the fifth generation, 

when }>yrmsl, dependence, on the 
original owner ceased. 2 

3. bondi, pi. boendr : 

(a) a tenant of a farm, or the owner of 

kaupajorft, bought land, as opposed to 
d5a/s/orS, freehold. 3 

(b) freeholder, franklin, hauldr, holdr, pi. 

hauldar, oftalsmaftr, oftalborinn 
maftr ; land became 6Sal when it was 
inherited from five forefathers, in the 
sixth generation. 2 

1 N.G.L., see also Seebohm's Tribal Custom in Anglo-Saxon Law. 

- In Seebohm's Tribal custom in Anglo-Saxon Law, 1903, 273, he 
quotes from Gulathing Law, 270, an incidental reference to 6Sal 
which is there described as land which afi has left to afi, and which 
his translator has rendered : ' grandfather has left to grandfather.' 
Afi in this instance means ancestor (see N.G.L., V., Gloss, s.v., and 
Fritzner, s.v., (3) ). The full definition of 68al is given in Gula- 
thing Law, 266. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 249 

4. nobleman, lendborinn, lendrmaftr, landed- 

man (formerly hersir), one holding a len, 
fief, of the king. 12 

5. highborn man, tignarmaftr : 

(a) jarl, earl, holding a Un, fief, of the nil 

king. 24 

(b) konungr, king. 48 

To the titled classes the hertogi, duke, was added 
later on. The titles of barun and riddari, baron and 
knight were conferred, in 1277, on the lendirmen, and 
the skutilsveinn in the king's hirft, bodyguard, who 
were styled herra, lord. Herra was also applied to 
bishops, and sira to priests. 

In accordance with Old Borgarthings Law these 
distinctions of class and grade were applied to the 
dead as well as to the living. The churchyard was 
divided into four quarters for burial. Lendirmenn 
were buried east and south-east of the church, under 
the eaves if they had taken part in the building of the 
church, otherwise they were buried in the bcendr's 
quarter. Hauldar and their children were buried next 
to the lendirmenn, and the \>rcelar, thralls, next to the 
churchyard wall. 1 

The following are the saga references to society, 
officials, personal appearance, etc., etc. 

As regards personal appearance, special attention is 
always directed to dark and swarthy persons, who are 
sometimes described as unlucky looking, and to very 
fair persons with flaxen hair. The inference being that 
the average islander was brown-haired, and not a pure 

1 In the Oxford Icelandic Diet., s.v., Holdr, is given a description 
of the Norwegian graveyard, which concludes with a statement thai 
'the hold had right to twice as much,' etc.; in the Diet, after nearest 
to the wall insert sources N.G.L., I., 344, 559, 368, and then com- 
mence In cases of landndm, i.e., fines for illegal possession or use 
of land, the hold had right to twice as much, etc., and correct the 
source to N.G.L., 44. 

250 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

In 880, earl Hallad got weary of the earldom, and 
took up his haulds rett, 6Sal right, and went back to 
Norway. When he resigned his len, fief, of the earl- 
dom he was only a hauldr or oSalborinn, as there was 
nothing else for him, unless the king gave him another 
len and made him a lendrmaSr in Norway. 

Earl Torf-Einar, 880-900, the famous skald (whose 
name was given by Snorri to a metre called Torf-Einars- 
hdltr), after he had an eagle carved on the back of 
Half dan, the son of Harald harfagri, and sacrificed him 
to OSin, sung a song in which he referred to the 
holdar who had warned him of the danger, hcetta, he 
had incurred. The Orkney 65alsmenn or bcendr were 
therefore called hauldar. 

For this crime king Harald, as already mentioned, 
exacted a payment, gjald, from the islands. Earl Torf- 
liinar paid the fine, in security for which the bcendr 
gave him their 6Sul. The rich, auftigr, bcendr agreed, 
because they thought that they would be able to redeem 
them, while the poor, snauftr, bcendr had no money 
to pay the gjald. 

We have here a clear statement that the bcendr of 
Orkney (and Shetland ?) were hauldar or oSalbornir. 
The designation b6ndi is applied, throughout the saga, 
to the 65albornir or oSalsmenn of the islands. The 
Scottish hofSingi, Summerled, is called a hb'ldr, in 
1157. The bcendr of Shetland are called fyegnar, thanes 
or freemen, in a verse. 

Earl Einar took the earldom as a len, or fief, from 
the king, and was not required to pay any skatt (as was 
paid by the earls in Norway), on account of the viking 
raids to which the islands were subject. 

Throughout the existence of the Norse earldom, 872- 
1468, it was always held as a fief from the king of 
Norway, each earl being invested. The title was not 
strictly hereditary, as it was conferred, at will, by the 
king, on any member or connexion of the family, or 
on another family altogether. Earl SigurS, circa 995, 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 251 

restored the 65ul to the bcendr for services rendered 
to him in Scotland. He had a /nrS, bodyguard, which 
numbered among its members, Helgi and Grim Njals- 
sons and Kari. He had also a syshimaftr, steward, in 
Caithness and Stroma. The b&tr, wergild, awarded 
by the king for the slaughter of earl Einar, in 1026, 
was fixed as for three lendirmenn, instead of two as in 
the above list. 

Earl I>orfinn, who ruled 1014-1064, was half a Scots- 
man, his mother being a daughter of the king of 
Scotland. He had the whole earldom to manage after 
1028 and to own 1030-1035, the period of king Knut's 
reign over Norway. He had his foirS, bodyguard, and 
treated them and many other rikismenn, mighty men, 
exceptionally well, as he furnished them with meat and 
drink all the winter through, and not merely at Yule, 
as was the custom of other earls and kings, so that no 
man needed to go to a skytningr,- a guild or club. 

Earl Rognvald, 1045, brought certain matters before 
his vinir and rdftgjafar, friends and councillors. A 
raSgjafi was one of the council of a king or princely 

When earl Rognvald burnt earl f>orfinn's bu, in 
1046, the women and the ufrjdls, unfreemen, i.e., 
thralls, were allowed to escape, but the hirSmenn were 
burnt in the house, "as they would be no better to 
him alive than dead." However, the earl escaped in 
the dark. 

Frequently a sdttar-fundr, peacemeeting, was held for 
the settlement of private disputes. During 1098-1102, 
SigurS, the nine-year-old son of king Magnus, was 
made earl of Orkney, when the two ruling earls were 
banished to Norway. The king provided him with a 
rdftvneyti, council. 

During king Magnus' expedition to Scotland and 
England, Magnus, afterwards earl and saint, acted in 
his /lirS as skutilsveinn. 

On the succession of SigurS to the throne, the sons 

252 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

of the banished earls who had since died were made 
earls. Both of these earls were married to Scottish 
wives. Among the earl's men, in 1116, are mentioned 
his merkismaftr, standard bearer, and steikari, cook. 
The merkismaSr of the king ranked as a lendrmaSr. 
When earl Hakon's merkismaSr declined to execute 
St. Magnus, his steikari was ordered to do so. There 
is a distinction drawn between the rikismen and bcendr 
who attended a thing in 1137; the difference may have 
been one of wealth, as previously mentioned, auSigr 
and snauftr. There were njosnarmen (news-men), 
spies, in those days. The bishop, on one occasion, 
acted as meftalferftarmaftr, intercessor, between the 
earls. There were two gildirmenn, great men, in 1128, 
Jon vagngr (wing), at Uppland in Haey, and his 
brother RikarS, at Brekka in Strj6nsey. 

In 1135, the earl had his skutilsveinn and kertisveinn 
page and torchbearer, at feasts. The skutilsveinn was 
one of the hirft, bodyguard. 

Two earls shared the earldom in 1139, and it was 
arranged that one should have ra5, rule, and that they 
should have only one hirS between them. 

Earl Rognvald, the saint and skald, took into his 
hirS, Hall, the Icelandic skald, and they collabor- 
ated in the composition of the famous " Hattalykill 
hinn forni," a key to metres, and used five visur, 
strophes, to each hdttr, metre, but the kvcefti, song, was 
thought too long, and now two are sung to each hattr. 
Other Icelandic skalds were also taken into his hirS. 
This earl had his syslumaftr, steward, in Caithness, to 
collect his revenues. 

Svein, the last of the vikings, who was latterly a 
hirSmaSr of earl Rognvald, had in his house a heima- 
kona, housemaid, and huskarlar, menservants, followers 
or bodyguard. He had also a landseti or husbondi, a 
tenant of one of his farms. The earl's and Svein 's 
huskarlar may have been their hirS, and not merely 
menservants ; because this term is sometimes applied 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 253 

even to the king's hirS. When Svein and earl Erlend 
met unexpectedly, at a time when they happened to be 
at feud with each other, they endeavoured to settle their 
dispute on the spot. But as the earl was not accom- 
panied by his hirft and rdftuneyti, bodyguard and coun- 
cil, Svein offered the services of his own fylg&, fol- 
lowers or bodyguard, and raSuneyti. 1 This gives a 
good idea of the status of an Orkney rikismaor, gofugr 
maSr or gceSingr, of the period, 

Other leading men, such as I?orbj6rn klerk, had a 
sveitungr or fylgSarmenn, a following of men. 

-The designation gceSingr denotes a man of gcefti, 
wealth. In 1064, the earl's gceSingar are mentioned. 
Earl Rognvald had the bishop and many of his gceSin- 
gar at his Yule feast. Svein 's revenues in Caithness, 
in 1126, are called his gceSi. In 1153, the gceSingar 
went into two bands and took sides with the two earls. 
In 1128, it is remarked that there were many gofugir 
menn, noblemen, in Orkney, of the stock of the earls, 
who were all gceSingar of earl Pal. In 1136, earl Pal 
summoned the gceSingar and asked council. He had 
a great feast with his gceSingar. The earl's gceSingar 
came to the earl when the danger beacons were lit. 
There is a reference in Fms. vi., 442, to the king's 
stallari and other gceSingar, and x, 303, to the king's 
borS and gceSingar. The conclusion seems inevitable 
that the term gceSingar was applied in Orkney to the 
earl's hirSmenn, the "gentles" of a later period. At any 
rate they were the wealthy oSalbornin, and of the stock 
of the earls. A gceSingr was described in 1 159, as of the 
earl's kin, and the gofgastr mafrr, most worshipful by 
birth, in the earl's /iS,. troops. They are always called 
the earl's gceSingar and of his- kin ; possibly they had 
grants, during the earl's life, of portions of the earldom 
lands at veizlu, in return for which they would have 
to support him in battle and to entertain him when on 
circuit, corresponding with the king's lendirmenn. As 

1 The translation of Orkn. is bad here. ,-v 

2 54 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

the earl only held the earldom for life, in fief from the 
king, he could only grant portions of it, at veislu, 
during his tenure. 

A Shetland buandi ( bondi), in 1137, had a leigu- 
maftr, servant ; and man-frelsi, giving a thrall his free- 
dom, is mentioned. 

An drraaoV, steward, also appears in the earl's ser- 
vice. A bondi in Caithness was described as gb'fugr, 

In 1154, St. Magnus' cathedral was used as A 

Harald Thorbjorn addressed earl Rognvaldr as herra 
in 1139-48, a title only applied to kings and earls at that 
time. In 1277, knights and barons were created in 
Norway, to whom the title of herra was given. 

The king's foguti, bailiff, appears in Shetland, when 
it was annexed to Norway, in 1194, and the king sent 
his befalingsmen, 1 officers, to Orkney and Shetland in 

In 1273-1299, Shetland was in the appanage of 
hertogi, duke, Hakon, afterwards king of Norway. 

There were no lendirmenn in Orkney and Shetland, 
as the earl was sole feoffee, but their place in society 
and in the government of the earldom would be taken 
by the rich and leading oSals-bcendr, the rikismenn, 
goeSingar, etc., who probably represented the earls in 
their respective districts. 

Besides the political divisions of classes, it will have 
been already observed that there were then, as now, 
a multiplicity of social distinctions, even in one class. 
It has already been mentioned that, as early as 895, 
the brendr were divided into rich and poor, as well as 
the earls' kin, chiefs, great men and such like. For 
matrimonial purposes there would, undoubtedly, have 

1 Orkn. 236 : Peder Clauson Undals Danish translation (circa 

1600) of the lost Boglunga sogur; at this time (1210) the term 

befalingsman does not occur in Norway. The term used in Sverr. S. 
is syslutnenn. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 255 

been still further discrimination observed, having 
regard to family associations. The islands must have 
been a veritable storehouse of genealogical lore, seeing 
that five generations had to be traced back to claim 6Sal 
right, and four for a freed thrall family to claim to be 
freeborn. In Frostathinglaw, a family of thrall origin 
had to trace eight generations, in order to become 
arborinn. The law required these genealogies to be 
proved by witnesses in court. 

As regards the 65als-bcendr, they were all, rich and 
poor, members of their primary lawthing, and eligible 
for nomination as members of the logretta the humble 
owner working his own patch of ground, and the rich 
owner with his estate let out to tenants and, as such, 
they were indiscriminately, rich and poor, described as 
g68ir-menn; good men, i.e., good, honest and respect- 
able men ; whereas the rich, the well-born and leading 
men, or rulers, who were members of the hirSmanna- 
stefna, were, as such, appropriately described as the 
" gentles " of the country. The hirSmannastefna, 
which originally was concerned with court ceremonial, 
latterly, in Orkney, acted as a judicial assembly, over 
which the earl presided. 

The inborn faculty for genealogy was maintained in 
Shetland until the nineteenth century, when it is told 
that some families had oral genealogies going back for 
centuries, which had been handed down from genera- 
tion to generation. 

Living. In the saga we have descriptions of home- 
steads skdli, hall; stofa, parlour; bakhus, bakehouse; 
bygghus, bigghouse, barn ; brunnr, well ; Ijori, an 
opening in the roof for light and for the escape of 
smoke from the langeldar, longfires, in the centre of 
the hall floor; when the fires were not burning the Ijori 
was covered with a skjd-vindauga, skin window, formed 
of a skjd-grind, a frame, covered with skjall, a mem- 
brane or skin, to admit light ; walls were hung with 
tjald, tapestry, with mythological subjects. 

256 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

There were skytningar, clubs or guilds, and Kirkwall 
was a kaupstaftr, merchant town, in 1137. The earls 
wore kyrtills and gilded helmets and had underclothing 
of lin-klcefti, linen. 

Bread-breaking was performed as a peace token. 
Brewing took place before Yule, when feasts were held 
and solemn memorial toasts drunk out of horns, 
kapp-drykkja. Evening meals, with drinking after, 
were the fashion. 

Earl Rognvald indulged in harp-playing, and in 
extemporising poetry. Among games mentioned are 
mann-jofnufSr, man-matching, comparing which is the 
better of two, frequently ending in bloodshed ; tafl, 

' : Among sports : otter (otr) hunting, hare (heri) hunt- 
in'g, grouse (heiftar-hcend) shooting, in 1154, in Ork- 
ney, and deer hunting in Caithness. 

Ships. In the mythical part of the saga we are told 
of a stjornfastskip, a ship with the rudder fixed, a 
term used again in 1098, also bakborfti, larboard, as 
opposed to stjornborfii, starboard, which is mentioned 
in 1152. The following notices are arranged chrono- 
logically : 

.880 : stafnbui, forecastle men (stafn, stem, bow or 
stern framstafn, the bow, aptrstafn, the stern). The 
term occurs again in 1136, with frambyggvar, bow- 
sitters. The gangway leading to the bow was called 

1029: langskip, longship; framan siglu, before' the 
mast; sigla, mast; segl, sail; stafnle, a grappling hook 
(le, a scythe); dr, oar; lypting, poop, a raised place 
(castle) on the poop. 

. 1046: bdtr, boat; hdls, the bow or neck of a boat; 
andceja, to paddle a boat against tide and wind to pre- 
vent drifting, modern dialect ando. 

1047 : tvitug-sessa, twenty-oared ship (sessa, a seat). 
,1098 : fyrirrum, the first cabin in the after part, next 
the lypting. 

J IT O - 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Xotes. 257 

1136: }>iljur (planks), the deck; smd skip, small 
ships; sexceringr, six-oared boat, modern Shetland 
sixareen ; veiftar-fteri, fishing tackle. 

1137 : byr&ingr, a merchant ship, a ship of burden; 
skuta, a small craft, cutter. 

1148: skipstjornarma&r, ship steerer, captain, 
skipper ; pritugt at ruma-tali, a ship with thirty rooms, 
seats or divisions, for sixty rowers ; buit skip, orna- 
mented ship ; hdlf-fcrtugt at ruma-tali, a ship with 
thirty-five rooms, for seventy rowers, and gulli lagi 
allir enni-spcenir ok veftrvitar ok vifia annars-staftar 
buit, gilded carved heads and weather-vane and many 
other parts ornamented ; dreki (a dragon), a ship of war, 
with a dragon's head as beak, and hofufiin ok krokar 
aptr mjok gullbuit, the head and tail or coils aft much 
gilded, and hlyr-birt, stained on the bows, and painted 
above the water line. 

1152: dromundr, a warship, in the Mediterranean. 

1154: reiQi, tackle, including sails; eptir-bdtr, after 
boat, a cock boat of a ship. 

1158 : tjald, a tent or awning on board ship. 

Beliefs. Torf-Einar slew a viking in the ninth 
century and gave him to the troll, trolls ; he made an 
Orkneyman cut an o'rn, eagle, on the back of Half dan 
halegg with a sverft, sword, and skera, cut, the rif, 
ribs, all from the hryggr, spine, and draga, draw 7 , there 
out the lungu, lungs, and gaf, gave, him to OS in for 
his sigr, victory; after which he let cast Halfdan's 
haugr, how, when he sung : " The Xorns have ruled it 
rightly." In 995 earl SigurS digri and the Orkneyingar 
were asserted by Olaf Tryggvason trua, to believe, in 
ymislig skur&gofi, various idols or ' carved gods.' 
When the king desired skira, to baptise, the earl, the 
latter preferred to abide by the dtrunaftr, faith, and the 
siSr, religion, of his frcendr, kinsmen, and forfeftr, fore- 
fathers (Orkn., 313, quoting Flalcyjarbok, ch. 12). 
A spdmaftr, spaeman, forneskjumafir, sorcerer, or visin- 
damaSr, wizard, was consulted by earl Hakon Palsson, 


258 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

in 1090-94, about getting hamingja, good luck, and 
hearing his forlog, future fate, by forneskja or fjol- 
kyngi, witchcraft. Heathen sacrifice, blot, is referred to. 

Svein brjostreip, a hir&'maSr of earl Pal, was forn 
tnjbk, versed in old lore or witchcraft, and had con- 
stantly uti setift and sat uti um nottina, sat out at night 
as a wizard (at the cross-roads), which is described as 
ubotaverk, a crime, in N.G.L. Svein preferred witch- 
craft to attending midnight mass on Yule eve. The 
slaughter of Svein was welcomed by the bishop as land 
hreinsan, a cleansing of the land, a term used in Gula- 
thing Law for clearing the land of miscreants. 

Society after Saga times. The last Norse earls in the 
male line were already half Scottish in 1206; and 
numerous Scottish relatives and friends of theirs came 
to Orkney. As regards Scottish marriages, like rulers 
like people. After 1206, the Scottish earls ruled. From 
that time till 1400, and later, is more or less a blank, 
except certain misdeeds of the bishops, an elopement, 
rival claimants to the earldom, and clergy translated 
from Norway to Orkney and Shetland. In 1347, king 
Magnus Eiriksson bequeathed, to St. Magnus' 
cathedral, a chasuble, dalmatic tunicle and a cope. 1 
The king of England complained to Norway about 
the bishop of Moray, the excommunicated adherent of 
Robert the Bruce, being harboured in Orkney 2 ; and 
later on, Robert the Bruce, who, tradition says, him- 
self took refuge in Orkney, in turn complained about 
one of his fugitives being received there. 3 An agree- 
ment, in Norse, drawn up in 1369, between the bishop 
and the representative of the king of Norway, during an 
interregnum in the earldom, gives some insight into the 
social condition of the islands at that time. 4 It was 
agreed that the bishop and the rikast menn, noblest 
men, in Orkney and Shetland, should be first and fore- 

1 D.N., V., 149. 

'D.N., XIX., 544. 

"D.N., V.. 63. See also II., 98; XIX., 594. 

'D.N., I., 308. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Xotes. 259 

most in all rdS, councils, henceforth as regarded the 
king, church and people, according to the laws and 
landssiftir, customs of the country, and that the bishop 
should have godirmen (O.X. goftir mcnn), good, honest 
men, inlenzkir, born in, Orkney and Shetland, at }>j6na, 
to serve him, as the custom was with other bishops in 

The islands were evidently, at this early period, 
suffering from Scottish adventurers. It is significant 
that of the twenty-four leading men who were present 
at the making of that agreement, many had Scottish 
names, including the archdeacon of Orkney, a canon, 
and several clergy. Only two had Norwegian names, 
Gudbrand Andresson and Olave Skutt, while Sigurd 
of Paplay may be the only native man among the lot. 

The wardrobe and belongings of a Shetland gentle- 
man of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, 
sir David Sinclair, great foud of Shetland, captain of 
the king's castle in Bergen, etc., are set forth in his will 
of 1506; inter alia: 

Drinking vessels : two silver and one " mid " stoops, 
with thirty stopps (flagons and cups?) 

Ships : " The Carvell " ; a little ship; and the Inglis 
(English) ship. 

Jewelry : gold chain, which he wore daily ; gold 
chain, called a " collar," given to him by the king of 
Denmark; great silver belt; signet. 

Clothing : linen robe bought from the Flemings ; blue 
doublet, with breast set with precious stones ; hood, set 
with precious stones ; black doublet of velvet ; red hose ; 
short red velvet coat, without sleeves ; short black velvet 
coat ; doublet of cloth of gold ; grey satin gown ; three 
ostrich feathers ; black damask gown with silver but- 
tons ; grey scarlet hose ; doublet of down cramese ; red 
velvet coat, left to the high altar of St. Magnus' 
Cathedral ; two-thirds of a black velvet coat, left to St. 
Magnus' church, Tingwall, and one-third to the Cross 
church of Dunrosnes; green cloth, etc. 

260 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

Harness : three saddles, etc 
Book : " The Book of Good Manners." 
Another Shetland gentleman, Magnus Leslie of Ayth, 
had purloined from him, circa 1576, by the foud of 
Shetland, besides, food, drink, cattle, etc., the following 
articles: sixteen ells of " keltar " ; one pair double 
blankets ; a bed covering ; a doublet of cramese ; a 
black cowl, which cost a crown of the sun ; three crystal 
stones set in silver, of the Dutch fashion ; copper kettle ; 
a keg, with twelve pounds of soap ; tin cans and 
empty stoops ; honey ; cruses ; pigs (earthenware jars) ; 
" stalis " ; cups; beakers; together with all his servants' 
clothing, such as cassies, breeks, doublets. 1 

Person-names. Patronymics were in use in Shet- 
land until early in the nineteenth century, when they 
became stereotyped. Some names in Shetland appear 
to have been taken from local place-names. In Orkney 
the last vestiges of patronymics occur in the sixteenth 
century. In Orkney, Scottish settlers were rife, and 
it is probable that the immediate descendants of the first 
settlers, especially those without historic names, would 
conform to the prevailing fashion of patronymics, 
encouraged by local intermarriage ; and, later, un- 
doubtedly the Scots set the fashion, and possibly began 
the adoption of place- as person-names (an advantage 
to fugitives). With the exception of Scottish and 
other outland names, nearly all other Orkney person- 
names are now derived from local place-names. In 
the early stages of the adoption of place-surnames, and 
when the custom was in its full vigour, such Orkney 
place-names as may have replaced Scottish surnames 
would become permanent ; whereas, in the final decay 
of the fashion in the i8th century, we find, as was to 
be expected, that the substituted place-surname was, 
frequently, only of a temporary nature. We also find, 
in Orkney, that persons readily changed their place- 
surname for that of a new abode. Taking all this into 
!Opp. O.Z.. 72. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 261 

consideration, it would be difficult, if not impossible, 
to say which families are now of native Norse origin 
in the male line. Even Blaikie and Halcro, which have 
hitherto been regarded as the most important Orkney- 
Norse surnames, are only represented by genuine place- 
names in Forfarshire and Caithness. Another Forfar- 
shire place-name, Fothringham, is also the surname of 
an old Orkney family. 

Another factor to be considered is the changing of 
place-names for one or other of the following reasons : 
(i) the inclination to acquire a property with the same 
or a similar sounding name to that of the purchaser, 
and conforming one with the other; (2) the deliberate 
changing of the place-name to that of the surname of 
the owner, e.g., the Caithness place-name Halcro was 
given to a place called Holland in South Ronaldsey, 
which belonged to the Halcro family, in the sixteenth 
century, and in recent times Balfour appears in Shapin- 
sey, (3) personal association has introduced such foreign 
place-names as Inkerman, Balaclava, Ballarat, etc.,, 
while fables have converted Keeso into Kaesar, and 
Grikalty into Agricola. 

Of modern English place-names may be mentioned : 
News = New-house, Nieland = New-land (old name 
Orquil, in Orphir), Glowrowra = Glower-over-all, a 
house on a hill-side, with a wide view. 

There are known instances of the glossing of place- 
surnames, induced by a sensitiveness to fashion. In 
the ascendancy of Scottish influence, Rusland became 
Russell, Burgar : Burgess, etc., and conversely, in the 
full vigour of the Norse influence, Scottish surnames 
would have been conformed to Orkney forms. 

Each Scottish place-man and notable settler would 
have been followed by a train of relatives, friends, 
dependents and other persons from the same district, 
as actually occurred in and after the sixteenth century, 
of which we have records. 

Those persons in Orkney and Shetland who can 

262 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

prove their descent from the St. Clair earls (which 
includes all the descendants of bishop Graham) are of 
viking descent. 

As an illustration of the readiness with which Scots- 
men became naturalised in the islands,- may be men- 
tioned the case of the Scottish-born Scotsman, Lawrence 
Bruce of Cultmalindie. He was the principal agent in 
1575 of the oppressor, lord Robert Stewart, and in 1592 
numbered himself, together with seven other persons 
bearing Scottish names, among the " odallers," and 
as such supplicated the Scottish parliament against the 
oppressions of Patrick Stewart, earl of Orkney (the son 
of his erstwhile employer), and championed the " gwid 
subjectis, heritable possessoris of the udack ( !) lands 
in Orkney and Zetland." 

The bulk of the principal landowners in the islands 
have had Scottish names for centuries, including some 
leading 65al families, such as Irvine, Craigie, 
Cromarty, Sinclair, etc. 

The ascendancy of the Scots is only natural, when 
we consider (i) the proximity of Orkney to Scotland, 

(2) the succession of the Scottish earls since 1206, 

(3) the acquisition of the islands by Scotland in 1468, 
since when the clergy, officials, and their following 
have been Scots, and (4) the population, especially 
since the adoption of the English language, has been 
mainly recruited from Scotland, while considerable 
emigration of the viking element has been constantly 
in progress. If the male line of the earls died out in 
three centuries, as early as 1206, the same is to be 
expected of, at least, the ruling class as well. But there 
can be little doubt that there are few in the islands who 
do not descend, through the distaff side, from the old 
vikings, whose spirit of adventure and colonisation they 
have so well maintained in all the British colonies. 

. O.Z.. 101. 

Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 263 


Page references are to this volume. 

D.N. Diplomatarium Norvegicum quoted by vol. and page. 

N.G.L. Norges Gamle Love. 

Orkn. Orkneyinga Saga, Rolls Series of Icelandic Sagas, vols. 1 , III., 
text and translation. As the translation contains additional text, 
it is referred to by page ; but the text is used as the authority, as 
the translation is imperfect. In the Introduction this saga is 
referred to as " the saga." 

Hak. S. Hakonar Saga, Rolls Series of Icelandic Sagas, vols. II., IV., 
text and translation. The translation is cited by page but the text 
is founded on. 

Opp. O.Z. Oppressions of the Sixteenth Century in the islands of Orkney 
and Zetland; from the original documents. Edited by colonel 
David Balfour, of Balfour, for the Maitland Club, Edinburgh, 1859. 

Heimskringla. Saga Library, vols. 3-6. 

Sverr. S. Sverrissaga. Northern Library, Vol. IV. Translated by the 
Rev. J. Sephton, London, 1899. 

O.T. Saga of king Olaf Tryggvason. Northern Library, vol. I. Trans- 
lated by the Rev. J. Sephton, London. 1895. 

Ud. N.H. Udsigt over den Norske rets historic, by professor Absalon 
Taranger, 2 vols. Christiania, 1898, 1904. 

Dr. Jakob Jakobsen's works referred to are: Det Norr0ne sprog 
pa Shetland, K0benhavn, 1897. Shetlands0ernes stednavne, 
K0benhavn, 1901. Etymologisk ordbog over de Norr0ne sprog 
pa Shetland, a sju. K0benhavn, 1908, 1909, 1912. 
The dialect and placenames of Shetland, Lerwick, 1897. 
Nordisk minder, isaer sproglige pa Orkn0erne. Svensha LandsmMen, 

P.R. Rentals of the ancient earldom and bishopric of Orkney. Edited 
by Alexander Peterkin, 1820. 

O.S.R. Orkney and Shetland Records, Viking Society, Vol. I., 
completed ; quoted by page. 

Explanations of terms have been taken from Cleasby's Icelandic-English 
Dictionary, Fritzner's Ordbog over det gamle Norske sprog, and the 
Gloss irium to N.G.L. 





THE union of priestly functions and political power 
exemplified in the position of the goftar in pre- 
Christian Iceland is a matter on which all 
scholars agree, and it is generally admitted that, to 
some extent at least, the political power of this class 
in Iceland developed as a result of temple-adminis- 
tration . 

It is with regard to Norway that views diverge. 
Were the Norwegian emigrants who came to settle in 
Iceland accustomed to see political and religious 
administration combined in one office, and, if so, who 
were the persons in Norway who wielded this combined 
power ? 

The older Norwegian historians, Keyser, 1 Munch, 2 
and Sars, 3 all held that the Icelandic constitution must 
have developed on Norwegian lines, and that the Nor- 
wegian prototypes of the go&ar are the petty kings, jarls, 
and chiefs (hersar), who, as they maintained, must have 
combined priestly functions with their administrative 
activities. Maurer 4 at first supported this view, but on 
finding that the word gofti occurred on three Danish 
Runic stones, he appears to have modified his opinion/ 
and came to the conclusion that goftar, and occasionally 

1 R. Keyser, Efterladte Skrifter, ii., i, pp. 6, 23. 

2 P. A. Munch, Det Norske Folks Historic, i., i, pp. 151 ff. 
S J. E. Sars, Udsigt over den norske Historic, i. 220. 

4 K. Maurer, Die Entstehung des islandischen Staates, p. 98 ff. 

5 K. Maurer, Zur Urgeschichte der Godenwiirde, Z.f.d. Phil. iv. 
p. 127 ff. 

Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 265 

gy&jur, priestesses, exercised priestly functions in 
Norway and Denmark, but in entire dependence on the 
chiefs or kings to whom they were attached, and on 
whose behalf they officiated. He also admits that 
private temples may have existed in Norway, and sug- 
gests that the owners of these might also have been 
goftar. V. Finsen, 1 on the other hand, fails to see any 
indication of a connection between the chiefs and the 
temple-administration in Norway, and maintains that 
the goftar, as an independent class of priests, had 
existed from early times among all Northern peoples, 
and that the survival of the title in Iceland alone is 
merely due to the circumstance that there alone did the 
priests come to play any important part in political life. 
Later writers 2 on Northern religion, including Mogk, 
incline to Maurer's later view, but always basing their 
opinion mainly on the evidence adduced by him, which 
Finsen, rightly enough, considered insufficient. 

The present essay is due to the writer's conviction 
that there is room for a more detailed study of the ques- 
tion. The evidence vouchsafed by our sources, though 
meagre and scrappy in the extreme, does yet seem 
capable, when collected, of somewhat more exploitation 
than has hitherto fallen to its lot. A systematic review 
of all the available items of information may bring us 
a little nearer to certainty as regards the main question 
at issue, and may further throw light on some other 


It will be best to begin our review of the evidence 
by considering all that we can glean concerning Nor- 
wegian temples and their management. If we begin 
with the south, the prehistoric temple at Skiringssalr 

1 Om den oprindelig Ordning af nogle af den islandske Fristats 
Institutioner, p. 56 ff. 

2 Herrmann, Nordische Mythologie ; Mogk, Mythologie 89 (in 
Paul's Grundriss Hi., 399). Golther, Handbuch zur germ. Myth. 
(p. 610-12) appears to hold Maurer's earlier view. 

266 Saga-Book of the ] r iking Society. 

is the first to be dealt with. Ski'ringssalr ' is generally 
considered to have comprised the modern district 
of Tj011ing, east of Larvik, in the ancient kingdom of 
Vestfold, and to have taken its name from a temple 
(Skirings-salr) supposed to be in the immediate neigh- 
bourhood of a royal residence. Sacrifice at Skirings- 
salr is mentioned in the Sogubrot af Fornkonungum, 2 
and in the extracts of its lost continuation as preserved 
by Arngnmr Jonsson. 3 The former breaks off with the 
words : " Then sacrifices were held at Skiringssalr, to 
which people flocked from all the ' vik.' ' Arn- 
grimr continues the story, telling us that King Sigurd 
Ring, who seems to have owned lands in these regions, 
though he was probably of Danish origin, turned aside 
"in Vickiam Norvegiae provinciam ad facienda sacra 
ethnica in Sciringssal, quae solennia ibi erant," and 
there sees Alfsol, 4 the daughter of King Alfr of Vend- 
syssel in Denmark. Skiringssalr was thus evidently of 
more than tribal importance as a religious as well as a 
mercantile centre, but all that we can glean for our 
purpose is that the temple was to some extent under 
the patronage of the Vestfold kings. However, as far 
Norwegian custom of that date is concerned, the Skir- 
ingssalr evidence is not really conclusive, since these 
Vestfold kings were not Norwegian in origin, but 
claimed descent from the Yngling kings of Upsala, and 
these were certainly regarded as the chief priests of the 
people. Other evidence for the connection of Nor- 
wegian royalty with temples, not so good in itself, 
but not open to that particular objection, is furnished 
by the Fornaldar Sogur. Thus FriSjof's Saga tells us 

1 G. Storm, Skiringssal og Sandefjord, Hist. Tidskr. Raekke iv.. Bd. i., 
1901, p. 214 ff. Also A. Kjaer: Hvad var Ski'ringssalr, Bd. v. (1908). 
2 Ch. x. (F.A.S., i., 363-88). 

3 Printed in Aarb. f.n. Oldk. 1894, p. 131 ff. 

4 A kenning containing the word vtbraut, and applied to Harald 
Fairhair, has been quoted as evidence that he was protector of the 
temple. But it seems that the kenning has no such significance, cp. 
F. Jonsson, Heimskringla iv., p. 28. 

Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 267 

of a King Beli of Sogn, who lives close to Baldrshagi, 
a great temple, and later on it tells us that his sons, 
who had succeeded to the kingdom, sacrificed there. 
And Hervarar Saga knows of a disablot, a sacrifice to 
the disir, at one King Alfr's. 

\Ve can now proceed to Vors. Vors or Voss was the 
name both of a district in South HorSaland, and of a 
homestead in that district. The fact that we hear of at 
least one Thing 1 held at the farm Vors suggests that 
it was the centre of the district, and that it had given 
its name to the neighbourhood. It seems likely, then, 
that it was the residence of the hersir. All w r e know 
of sacrifice at Vors is from a statement in Viga-Glum's 
Saga, 2 where we are told of a great feast there at the 
winter nights, said to be a sacrifice to the disir, at the 
temple ( ?) 3 of the hersir Vigfus, in about the year 950. 

We next reach Gaular, a district comprising the inner 
part of the Dalsfjord, in the region formerly called 
Fjalir, in FirSafylki. From various sources 4 we know 
that a certain Atli was jarl of Gaular from about 845- 
870. This Atli joins King Halfdan hinn svarti, and is 
made jarl of Sogn by him, and by Harald after him, but 
it is clear that he was still jarl of Gaular. 5 Egilssaga * 
gives us the following information : " Then (about 
868) Atli hinn mjovi was jarl. He lived at Gaular. 
... It was a certain autumn that there was a great 
gathering at Gaular for an autumn sacrifice." We 
further learn that Atli's daughter was present. Atli 
was killed about 870,' and his last surviving son, 
Hasteinn, must have left the country shortly afterwards, 
so we cannot identify the host at the next great sacri- 

1 F.M.S., iv., 270 and probably also F.M.S., i., 64. 
2 Vgl., ch. 6 (cf. ch. 3)! 

s " }>xr var veizla buin at vetrnottum ok gjort disablot ..." 
4 Hkr. Half. sv. ch 3, H.h. ch. 12, Fagrsk. ch. i., 2, Flat, i., 562, 570, etc. 
5 Fgrsk. 2, bans hafufl bu var a Gaulum. Hkr., Hh. 12. Atli jarl sendi 
f>au ord i mot, at hann mun halda Sygnafylki ok sva Gaulum. 

6 Eg. 2. 

7 So F. Jonsson in his Hkr. ed.. but cp. Vigfusson, Timatal, p. 290. 

268 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

fice recorded at Gaular, in the spring of 917,' when we 
are told that great numbers from FirSafylki and Fjalir 
and Sogn, and most of them important persons, 
attended, including J>6rir, hersir of FirSafylki. King 
Eirikr Blodox was also present. On this occasion 
Egilssaga vouchsafes the further information that there 
was a " most splendid chief temple " (hofufthof) there. 
But we are fortunate in knowing something more 
about Gaular. Landnamabok 2 tells of one I>orbj6rn, 
a powerful hersir in Fjalafylki, who was called " enn 
gaulverski," the man of Gaular. This I'orbjorn had a 
son Flosi, who emigrated to Iceland, after killing three 
of Harald's officials, but did not come to Iceland till 
late, as is clear from the fact that the other settlers 
called him Flosi hinn norrceni, 3 thus revealing that they 
already considered themselves Icelanders. So we may 
assume that he did not go to Iceland until towards 920 
or 930, and therefore his father, I>orbj6rn, may have 
lived at Gaular until nearly that date. 4 Now Flosi's 
sister, Oddny, also came to Iceland with her son Loptr, 
and of this Loptr Landnama relates that he went out 
to Norway every third summer on behalf of Flosi and 
himself, to sacrifice at that temple which I>orbj6rn, his 
mother's father, had had charge of at Gaular. 5 Finsen 6 
says (i) that nothing can be deduced from such an 
isolated statement, (2) that I>orbj6rn may have had 
charge of the temple before he was hersir, (3) that the 
verb, varftveita, to have charge of, does not necessarily 
imply that he actually officiated. With regard to point 
(i), we must remember that it rests on Landnama's 
unimpeachable testimony, and that it is exactly the 

1 Eg. 49. 

2 Ld. Hauksbcik ch. 315, 323, Sturlubok 368. (F. Jonsson's ed. In 
the following pages H = Hauksbok, S = Sturlubok). 

'Ld. S., 315. 

4 Cp. also Timatal, p. 285. 

5 Ld. H., 323. Loptr for utan hit iij hvert sumar fyrir bond )>eira Flosa 
beggia moSurbroSur sins at biota at hon )>vi er ]>orbiorn moSurfaftir hans 
hafdi par var5 veitt a Gaulum. Cp. also Ld. H., 315 ; S., 368. 

6 Om den opr. Ord., p. 52. 

Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 269 

kind of unexpected statement that bears the stamp of 
truth upon it, for it is obvious that it could not be 
invented. The second objection is only a suggestion, 
and an unlikely one, since it is improbable that I^or- 
bjorn's descendants would have gone to such trouble to 
keep up sacrificing, if I>orbjorn had only had charge 
of the temple in his youth. As regards (3) we find that 
the verb varftveita is used of Icelandic goftar, having 
charge of their temple. 1 Moreover there can be little 
doubt that the grandson at any rate actually officiated, 
as the word biota (to sacrifice) is used. 

We are now faced by several possibilities. Is the 
temple at Gaular of which l>orbjorn had charge the 
same as the " chief temple " in Gaular mentioned in 
Egilssaga, and was it at this same temple that Atli held 
his sacrificial feast in about 868 ? It certainly seems 
probable that 5?orbjorn had had charge of a chief 
temple, for his descendants would hardly have thought 
it worth while to return to sacrifice at a mere private 
temple. Moreover, if it had only been a private temple, 
there would have been no reason why Flosi or Loptr 
should not have removed it, or its most sacred parts, 
to Iceland, as we know was done with a considerable 
number of temples. Of course, Atli may have had 
another temple : the only difficulty in such a supposi- 
tion is that there should be two, presumably important, 
temples in so small a district as Gaular. Perhaps :Eorb- 
jorn only took over the charge of the temple after the 
death of Atli in 870. But there is nothing inherently- 
impossible in a jarl and a hersir sharing a temple, at 
any rate, if any credit can be given to Xjala's statement 
with regard to the GuSbrandsdal temple. The fact that 
Loptr returns every third summer to sacrifice reminds 
us of the story in the late FriSj>jof's Saga, 2 in which a 
hersir, I>orbj6rn of Sogn, had a third of the kingdom, 

1 Eyrb. 15. Snorri varftveitti l>a hof. Vapn. 5. Steinvor var hofgySja 
ok varftveitti hofuShofit. 
2 Ch. i. 

270 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

and made a great feast for the King of Sygnafylki 
every third year. It is just possible that torbjorn (or 
his predecessor) and Atli, and perhaps another hersir, 
took it in turns to hold the sacrificial feasts. We know 
that the chiefs of the Inner 3>randheimr district took 
over the charge of the sacrifices in turns. However 
this may be, we have at least seen that a hersir certainlv, 
and possibly a jarl, actually officiated in a chief temple 
in Gaular. We are unfortunately unable to tell whether 
the King AuSbjorn of FirSafylki ever played any part 
in this chief temple. 

We now pass on to the temple in GuSbrandsdal, 
where a hersir line ruled from the time of King Halfdan 
hinn svarti (or earlier) till the reign of St. Olaf. Njala ' 
tells us that the hersir Guftbrandr of Jarl Hakon's day 
(up to 995) was a great friend of that ruler, that the 
two shared a temple together, the second largest in 
Norway, which Njala declares was only opened when 
the jarl came thither. This last is usually regarded as 
a more than doubtful statement. We hear of the temple 
again in Heimskringla. 2 In 1022, when St. Olaf was 
engaged in forcibly Christianizing the neighbouring 
districts, the hersir GuSbrandr is said to have cut up 
the war-arrow and summoned all the inhabitants to a 
small village called HundJ?orp. We are told that 
enormous numbers of men attended. GuSbrandr then 
makes a speech, in which he refers to " our " temple, 
and to the image of Thorr in it, " which has always 
aided us." We may discount the historical accuracy 
of the speech, but it is clear from Snorri's description 
that he regarded the temple as the main place of worship 
for the whole neighbourhood. 3 

iCh. 87. 2 Hkr. O.h. 112. Cp. Flat, ii., p. 189. 

3 Dr. A. C. Bang, " Om Dale-Gudbrand," 1897, casts doubt on the 
whole story and even on the existence of GuSbrandr as being a "local 
legend" (en paa Lokalsagn bygget Legende), but recent researches in 
many districts seem to reveal a greater substratum of truth in local 
tradition than has been hitherto admitted. See Gomme, Folklore as a 
Historical Science. 

Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 271 

So far we gain the impression that a hersir admin- 
isters this temple also, especially as GuSbrand builds 
a church in the Dales after conversion. At one time 
he may have shared the control of it with a jarl. But 
the warlike gathering at Hundj>orp is next addressed 
by a 3?6rSr istrumagi, and in one good MS. 1 of the 
Heimskringla version he is called hofgofii, temple- 
priest of the Dalesmen. In the other MS. used for 
this passage the reading is hofSingi, chief, and so in 
all other versions of the story. One cannot help feeling 
that it is much more likely that hofftingi, a word of 
frequent occurrence in the Norwegian histories, should 
have been substituted for hofgofti, which is rare even 
in Icelandic sagas, and not again met with in Heims- 
kringla (except in Ynglingasaga) than that the reverse 
error should have been made. 2 Moreover, hof&ingi 
would need some further explanation, since it is obvious 
that GuSbrandr himself was " hofSingi " over the 

We now arrive at the largest temple in Norway/ that 
at HlaSir in Strindafylki. The first we hear of HlaSir 
is that somewhere about 867 or 868 Haraldr established 
a " chief residence " there, and called it his home. 4 
Haraldr had made the Jarl Hakon Grjotgarbsson, of 
Yrjar (on the north side of the fjord), Jarl over Strinda- 
fylki about the year 866, and soon we find Hakon called 
HlaKfl-jarl, and we hear of his entertaining Haraldr at 
HlaSir. 5 

In 943, we find Earl Siguror, called HlaSa-jarl like 
his father, entertaining King Hakon to a Yule-feast 
(i.e., sacrificial feast), and we are told that SigurSr was 

1 Cp. Hkr. (Finnur Jonsson's ed.). Indledning. pp. xxiv.-xxvi., and 
xlvii. ff. 

8 An Icelandic scribe could the more easily have made the error, as he 
was in the habit of considering gofti almost synonymous with 

*Odds O.T. 17 (F.M.S. x., 265), vj. 87. 

<Hkr. Hh. 9. 

5 Fgrsk. 2. 

272 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

a great sacrificer, 1 and that he kept up all sacrificial 
feasts in S>randheimr on behalf of the king. If this 
phrase means anything, the king, if present, was 
expected to preside over, or perhaps officiate at, sacri- 
ficial feasts. Of course, Hakon, as a Christian, would 
refuse to do this in any case. 

We are next told, apparently a propos of another 
feast, 2 that SigurSr was the most generous of men, and 
did a famous deed in giving a great feast at HlaSir and 
meeting all expenses himself. We must suppose that 
he usually provided the horses and cattle for sacrifice, 
but that the extra expense he incurred on this occasion 
was in supplying the food and drink, which we are told 
the worshippers usually brought with them. The third 
feast 3 at HlaSir mentioned in our sources was in the 
autumn of 952. The king comes to it, and is made to 
sit in the high-seat at the feast, instead of remaining 
apart as he had hitherto done. 

The last great Norwegian temple of which we have 
record is that at Masri or Maerin (now Maere), an impor- 
tant homestead (later on a royal demesne) in Spar- 
byggjafylki. The administration of this temple is 
unique, but we must begin by premising that there had 
been a jarl of the district of Sparabii 1 in the 8th century, 
and that he had fled to Jamtaland before a conquering 
King Eysteinn, perhaps about 780. Snorri tells us that 
there was a king 5 of this fylki until he fell in battle 
before Haraldr harfagri in 866. Now Maeri is undoubt- 
edly the chief place in the fylki, so we may assume that 
either the jarls, or Snorri's somewhat apocryphal king, 
had lived there. 

The first we hear of a temple at Masri is from 
Landnamabok, which relates as follows 6 : " l>orhaddr 
the Old was temple-priest (hofgofti] in t>randheimr at 

1 Hkr. H.g. 14. The Jarl is called ves vagi-valdr in a verse: "the 
protecting custodian of the sanctuary," cp. Hkr. vol. iv , p. 49. 

2 Hkr. H.g. 14. Ch. 17. 

4 Hkr. H.g. 12. O.h. 137. Hkr. H.h. 7. 

6 Ld. Hauksbok, ch. 258; Sturlubok, ch. 297. 

Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 273 

Maeri. He wished to go to Iceland, and took the 
temple down first, and had with him the soil of the 
temple and the pillars. He landed in StoSvarfjorS and 
laid the Masri sanctity over the whole fjord, and allowed 
nothing to be killed there but the home cattle." This 
is the only hofgoSi mentioned in Norway besides 
I>6r5r istrumagi in GuSbrandsdal. We note that the 
temple appears to be Thorhadd's private property, 
since he can unbuild it and remove its sacred pillars. 

After thus learning that the Masri temple had been 
partly demolished by a private owner, we are somewhat 
startled, when we next hear of it, to find that it is a 
" chief temple " (hofuS hof), 1 and that eight chiefs, who 
had most of the management of sacrifices in all Prand- 
heimr, are making preparations to entertain King 
Hakon there at a Yule sacrifice, 2 only a few months 
after that king had been an unwilling guest at HlaSir 
(in 952). Four of these chiefs, we are told, are from 
Inner I>randheimr, and four from Outer I>randheimr. 
Their names are given, and we note that each is a lead- 
ing landowner representing one of the eight fylki which 
compose 3?randheimr. These landowners force the 
luckless king to drink the toasts and eat the sacrificial 

We read again 3 of preparations for a sacrifice at 
Masri, but this was less of a triumph for the heathen 
chiefs " who had hitherto kept up the sacrifices 4 at that 
place." In 998 Olaf Tryggvason agrees with the 
trandheimr heathens that there shall be a -great mid- 
summer sacrifice at Maeri, but shortly before it is due 
he invites everyone to a feast at HlaSiir, and suggests 
sacrificing twelve chief men. He mentions seven 
names, of which four 5 are the same as those of the 
Inner I>randheimr farmers mentioned above. Finally 

ip.M.S. x., 323. 

a Hkr. H.g. 18. 

3 Hkr. O.T. 67, 68, 69. Flat, i., p. 319. 

4 Flat, i., p. 319 " hofuSblotum." 

5 In one case the son. 

274 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

he enters their temple and throws down the statue of 
Thorr. We are not told that he destroys the temple, 
though it seems probable that -he would do so. 1 

In the reign of St. Olaf it transpires that the Inner 
f>randheimr fylki still form a religious confederacy, 2 
and that twelve men manage the sacrificial feasts, 
apparently in turn. St. Olaf surprises them in flag- 
rante delicto, and there is an abrupt end to public sacri- 
fices in Norway. 

It seems as if there could be but one likely explana- 
tion of the successive administrations of this temple. 
We must suppose that (i) a jarl or king lived at Maeri, 
and administered a temple, deputing his functions to 
a hofgofti, as in the GuSbrandsdal case, (2) on the 
departure or death of the king or jarl the hofgofti con- 
tinued his functions until he went to Iceland, taking 
parts of his temple with him, and (3) after his departure 
the leading men of the whole of I>randheimr took over 
the temple, and confided the care of it to eight men, 
one from each fylki. 

We must admit that there is very strong evidence 
that temple administration in Norway is very closely 
bound up with chieftainship. Skiringssalr in the south 
is under the patronage of the Vestfold kings. The great 
temple in the north, the largest in Norway, is situated 
at HlaSir, King Harald Fairhair's self-chosen royal 
residence. The temple at Gaular is closely connected 
with a jarl and afterwards with a her sir ; that at Gu5- 
brandsdal with a her sir and traditionally with a jarl. 
The temple at HlaSir is obviously kept up by a jarl, 
though out of originally royal estates. That at Maeri is 
administered by the chief men of the district. 

The voice of tradition is not quite so clear as regards 
our second point, the exercise of priestly functions in 

1 When, later on, one of the leaders is charged by St. Olaf with 
sacrifices there, he urges that the buildings are large "hus eru stor," 
Hkr. O.h., 108. 

2 Hkr. O.h., 108, 109. 

Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 275 

the temple. There is a very independent temple-priest 
at Masri, and probably another, less independent, in 
GuSbrandsdal. But otherwise we find the jarl SigurSr 
himself officiating at HlaSir, and the hersir J?orbjorn 
at Gaular. One of the Fornaldar Sogur shows us kings 
officiating at Baldrshagi. With regard to this point, 
the actual exercise of priestly functions by chiefs, it 
may be urged that the evidence just quoted comes 
through Iceland, and is open to the suspicion of having 
been affected by Icelandic ideas, since the Icelandic 
historians were themselves used to the idea that priestly 
functions and political power w^ent hand in hand. But, 
fortunately, there is some entirely independent and 
more or less contemporary evidence on this point. The 
Irish annals tell us that in 841 the Viking " king " 
Turges took up his abode in Armagh, the holiest place 
in Erin, and turned the cathedral into a heathen temple, 
in which he himself officiated as priest. I think this 
must be accepted as conclusive evidence for the priestly 
functions of Scandinavian chiefs. I cannot, however, 
accept it as conclusive evidence for the priestly func- 
tions of kings, as I find it difficult to credit Turges with 
royal blood owing to his name. Whether it represents 
Thorgils or Thorgestr, it is certainly compounded with 
Thor, and would be unique for that reason in any 
Scandinavian royal family. 

One point is worthy of notice. From some of the 
genealogies l we observe that the jarls and hersar (and 

1 The following genealogy may serve as an illustration. It can be 
deduced from various passages in Landnama. 
hersir or Sogni 

Bjorn buna = Velaug Vemundr hersir 
Ketill veSr hersir of Hringariki. hersir or Sogni 

t FroSi 

Yngvildr = Ketill Flatnefr hersir. Hrappr = porunn = Ulfarr 

porbjorn gaulverski = Hildr 
hersir \ 

Oxidnf = Ormr 

276 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

to some extent the petty kings) must have formed an 
almost national Norwegian aristocracy, united by ties 
of blood. The interests of members of this aristocracy 
must have far outstripped the narrow limits of the petty 
kingdom to which the individual belonged. Now we 
have seen that the great sacrificial feasts were occasions 
for the chief connected with the temple, whether hersir 
or jarl, to entertain his friends and kinsmen. Such 
feasts were no doubt the cause of the rise of certain 
fylki temples to intertribal eminence. It may well be 
that this degree of religious union l preceded and fos- 
tered political union between the petty states, and 
made it possible to establish the common Things which 
seem to have been in existence before the time of 
Harald Hairfair. This must be my justification for 
taking up so much of your time in marshalling evi- 
dence. The connection between temple-administration 
and chieftainship is important not only in itself, but 
because, once it is established, public religious observ- 
ances are indissolubly linked with an aristocracy which 
forms a network extending far beyond the boundaries 
of each little kingdom. To discuss the effect of this 
intertribal aristocracy in neutralizing separatist tenden- 
cies in religion lies outside the scope of this paper, but 
we must realize its probable effects in neutralizing 
separatist tendencies in politics. The fact that temple- 
administration was vested in chiefs may thus have been 
a very important factor in the unification of the 


The results of our examination of the Norwegian 
evidence will have shown us the importance of noting 
the ancestry of the temple builders, the founders of 
goSi-families, among the settlers. The discovery that 
any large proportion of them were of hersir descent 

1 The existence of such intertribal religious unions is proved for a 
much earlier epoch by Tacitus' account of the common worship of 
Nerthus, by seven tribes, probably in Sjselland. 

Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 277 

would show that the identity of the temple owner and 
the chief was, at any rate, partially due to Norwegian 
tradition. We therefore proceed to adduce instances. 
The hersir BoSvarr of Vors (brother of the hersir 
Vigfiis already mentioned) settles in Iceland, builds a 
temple, and becomes a hofgofti; 1 Ketill haengr, 2 son 
of an earl of Naumudal, called dgicetr by Landnama, 
settles at Hof 3 in Rangarvellir ; Jorundr gofti, 4 son of 
Hrafn hinn heimski, and eighth in descent from King 
Haraldr hilditonn, builds a temple; Ketilbjorn 5 of 
Naumudal, called dgicetr by Landnama, which uses the 
word as equivalent to "of hersir (or jarl) birth," 
settles at Mosfell and has a temple : HofSa-^orSr/ 
dgicetr, and said to be descended from Ragnar Lo8- 
brok, dwells at Hof in HofSastrond, and is the ancestor 
of a line of goftar; Helgi bjola, 8 son of the hersir Ketill 
flatnefr, dwells at another Hof (apparently in spite of 
being a Christian in name); Eirikr, 9 dgicetr, settles at 
Hof in GoSdalir and is counted among the foremost 
settlers; Ingimundr 10 hinn gamli, son of the exiled 
]?orsteinn, son of the hersir Ketill raumr, dwells at Hot 
in Vatnsdal and has a temple. The two sons of 
Asbjorn, son of the hersir Heyjangrs-Bjorn of Sogn, 
Vej)ormr " and Ozurr, 11 come to Iceland, and must 
clearly have had a temple, since Vej'ormr's daughter 
is called hofgyftja, and Ozurr's son Freysgofti. Another 
Icelandic hofgyftja, frorlauj:, 12 is descended on her 
mother's side, if not on her father's, from hersar. Then 

1 Flat. i. 249 ; cp. Vgl. 5, Ld. i., 338 ; ii., 385. 

2 Ld. H. 303, S. 344. (Only the main references are given.; 

8 Hof always means "Temple" in Iceland. 

*Ld. H. 305, S. 346. 

5 Ld. H. 338 ; S. 385 ; his mother was daughter of an earl. 

6 See Cleasby and Vigfusson Diet., sub. agcetr. 

7 Ld. H. 175, etc. 

8Ld. H. r 4 ; S. 14. 

9 Ld. H. 163. 

10 Ld. H. 145; Vats. 17. 

Ld. H. 276; S. 316. 

12 Ld. H. 29. 

278 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

there is 3?6rSr skeggi, 1 son of Hrappr (called dgicetr), 
son of the famous hersir Bjorn buna. J?6rSr brought 
his temple pillars from Norway, as did also Hrollaugr, 2 
son of the Jarl Rognvaldr (and half-brother of Gongu- 
Hrolfr of Normandy). We may further note torgrimr 
go8i Kjallaksson 3 of Bjarnarhofn, who is of hersir 
lineage on both sides. This is far from an exhaustive 
list, but in view of the difficulty of ascertaining who 
built temples on arriving in Iceland, and the second 
difficulty of discovering the genealogy of those who 
did, we have mentioned enough cases to show that just 
as hersar and jarls had temples in Norway, so a very 
large proportion of the more important temples in Ice- 
land were built by descendants of hersar and jarls. On 
the other hand some few settlers of hersir rank appear 
not to have built temples, unless we are to suppose that 
their descendants lost the ownership of them. And 
again, other temple-builders are not stated to have been 
of hersir rank, though of course it is impossible to 
prove a humbler origin for them. i>6rolfr mostrar- 
skegg, 4 who brought his temple-pillars with him from 
Norway, and is supposed to have founded the first \>ing, 
is sometimes quoted as being of less exalted rank, but 
the assumption seems somewhat rash, especially as he 
is called the foremost man 5 on the island of Mostr, 
his Norwegian home. On the w r hole it seems safe to 
assume that temple-builders, if not always of hersir 
lineage, had at any rate been men of importance in 
Norway. Of course we must make some allowance for 
opportunities of rising afforded by the conditions of 
life in a new country. 

If we have established that the early goftar in Ice- 
land came of a powerful governing class, it seems 
worth while to enquire whether the possesion of a 
temple was quite such an essential factor in the acquire- 
ment of temporal power as it is usually held to have 

J Ld. H. 14. 2Ld. H. 270. 3 Ld. H .72. 

4 Ld. H. 73. 5 Eyrb. 3 

Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 279 

been. That the possession of a temple finally came to 
be a necessary qualification for a legal chieftainship 
we do not deny, but there seems reason to suspect that 
chiefs could rule }>ingmenn and hold sway over a dis- 
trict without it. That this was the case in the actual 
period of settlement there can be no doubt. For 
instance, AuSr djupuSga, 1 though a Christian, exer- 
cised at least as much influence in her district as any 
temple-owning heathen. Of course it is true that her 
neighbours were mainly dependents and nominally 
Christians, but Ketill fiflski, 2 another Christian, who 
settled in a district entirely heathen as far as Norwegian 
immigrants were concerned, is yet reckoned among the 
foremost settlers in the East country. Another case is 
that of Ulfr h. skalgi,* fourth in descent from a king. 
He comes to Iceland and settles in Reykjanes. With 
him comes out a man named Hallr, of high birth, who 
built a temple " because Ulfr was no sacrificer." We 
are then told that Hallr was a great chief, and many 
men then turned their allegiance to him (i.e., away 
from Ulfr). It is thus clearly implied that Ulfr, though 
not a gofti, had a chieftainship. But there are clearer 
instances than this. We know that Hrafnkell Freys- 
goSi, on hearing of the destruction of his temple by 
Samr, decided that it was " vanity to believe in gods," 
and never sacrificed again, 4 nor had he a temple in his 
new surroundings, yet he gathers together }>ingmenn, 
and soon has a regular }>inghd or district, and his sons 
take on the raawwa/orrdS, 5 chieftainship, after him. Now 
Samr, the travelled atheist who destroys the temple, 
cannot by any possibility be supposed to have charge 
of one, yet even without the prestige which we may 
suppose Hrafnkell to have retained, he also gains 
mannaforrdft. This occurs as late as about 947-953. 6 

iLaxd.6,7. 2 Ld. H., 354. 3 f>orsk. i. ^Hrafnk. 7. 

6 Hrafnk. 10. The fact that Hrafnkell is said to have a goftorti, ch. 9, 
can be explained by the later meaning of the word, chieftainship. 
6 Timatal, p. 495. 

280 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

It must be remembered that Hrafnkels Saga is remark- 
ably trustworthy. Unfortunately this cannot be so 
unreservedly stated of the next saga from which we 
will quote, Vatnsdada, but the incident in question is 
so circumstantially related, and so much opposed to 
what the actual writer of the saga would consider prob- 
able, that it is certainly to be credited. On the death 
of Ingimundr J his sons decide that whichever of them 
shall make a successful plan to avenge him shall choose 
some valuable part of their property for himself. Por- 
steinn is successful, and he chooses the homestead of 
Hof and the land that goes with it. The brothers then 
shared up the rest of their inheritance, and the go$or& 
fell to 1?6rir's share. But I>orsteinn became chief (hof- 
Singi) over Vatnsdal and Vestrh6p and all those 
districts which had owned allegiance to Ingimundr, his 
father. 2 Finally, in return for good advice given by 
him to Ponr, i>orsteinn begs that his sons may have 
the ^oSorS. All this takes place between c. 935-950.* 
It is here made perfectly clear that the goftorft, i.e., 
priesthood, was distinct from the chieftainship. 

At last we see the reason for the constantly used com- 
bination : goftorft ok mannaforrdft. In earlier Icelandic 
usage these words are not synonymous, as the 
dictionaries would lead one to suppose, and their his- 
tory is extremely different. GoSorS is an ancient word : 
mannaforrdft is a new word, coined in Iceland to express 
the type of political and administrative power exercised 
by Icelandic chiefs. GoSorft meant priesthood, and 
nothing more, when the Icelanders first settled in the 
new country : indeed, it may be doubted whether ihe 
meanings of these two words were ever merged into 
one until after the introduction of Christianity. 

It is possible that the revised law of 965, restricting 
the number of goSar, was partly aimed against chiefs 
whose authority was solely temporal. Such chieftain- 
ships would have no guarantee of stability, since they 

1 Vats. ch. 24, 27. ' 2 Vats. ch. 37. 8 Timatal, p. 495. 

Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 281 

would lack all tangible sign of union. Now Professor 
Bjorn Olsen has suggested that the ready acceptance 
of Christianity in the year 1000 is partly to be ascribed 
to the agitations and discontent of ex-^oo'ar or their 
sons, who had been dispossessed of chieftainship by 
the law of 965. It seems more than probable that the 
ranks of these " outsiders " were swelled by families 
who had exercised chieftainship without possessing a 
temple, or who had allowed their temple to descend to 
another branch of the family. 

And this seems the place to consider such informa- 
tion as we can glean about gyftjur, priestesses. We 
are told of one Steinvor in the east of Iceland that she 
was hofgyfy'a, and had charge of the chief temple. She 
complained to the local chief, Broddhelgi, whose kins- 
woman she was, that a certan man, a Christian, had 
refused to pay the temple-tax. Broddhelgi said he 
would deal with the matter, but as a matter of fact it 
was allowed to drop. 1 Here we note (i) that Steinvor 
is a relative of Broddhelgi, and (2) therefore belongs 
to a distinguished family, and (3) her sphere is entirely 
limited to temple-jurisdiction. We know of three other 
well-attested gyftjur in Iceland, 2 of whom two at least 
are of hersir family. How entirely one of these, Thor- 
laug, daughter of Hrolf the younger, must have been 
identified with the priestly office seems to follow from 
certain words in Landnama which have hardly received 
the attention they deserve. " Hrolf r the younger 
married his daughter, J?orlaug gyfija, to Oddi 
Yrarson. For that reason he moved house west to 
Ballara, and dwelt there a long while, and was called 
Hrolf at Ballara." 3 Evidently his daughter, the 
priestess, could not move to her husband's house, as 
she could not leave the temple. The other two 

iVapn., ch. 5. 

2 f>uriSr gySja Solmundardottir (Ld. H. 147) ; furiSr hofgySja Ve>orms- 
dottir (Ld. H. 276) and >orlaug gyftja Hrolfsdotta (Ld. H. 29). 
s Ld. H. 29, S. 41, )>ui reSzt hann vestr til Ballarar. 

282 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

gyftjur are 5>uridr gyfya Solmundardottir 
J>uriSr hofgyfija VeJ'ormsdottir. Besides this, FriS- 
gerSr, the wife of torarinn fylsenni, sacrifices in a 
temple, at any rate during his absence, and is called 
gyftja in a verse. 1 It seems probable that in all these 
cases some male kinsman or the husband had manna- 
/orrdo', chieftainship. The case of I?6rarinn fylsenni, 
just at the close of the tenth century, suggests that even 
after the revised law of 965 mannaforrdft could still be 
held apart from priestly office, if the latter was in the 
hands of a kinswoman. We can quite understand that 
there would be less danger in the separation of the two 
offices, if the priestly functions were performed by a 
woman, who would be precluded from winning a real 
political ascendancy. The mention of four gyftjur in 
those of our sources which deal with the heathen period 
seems to suggest that they were a fairly large class. 
We are thus rendered less sceptical of the Norwegian 
gyfijiir mentioned in the Fornaldarsogur, and can 
credit the story of Alfhildr, to whom we are introduced 
while she is performing a sacrifice at night. The case 
of Turges' wife, who acts as priestess at Clonmacnois, 
may also be remembered. But in considering priest- 
esses it must be admitted to be possible, and even 
probable, that we must set very definite limits to their 
activities and prevalence at the close of heathen times. 
There seems to be reason for suspecting that women 
only performed functions as priestesses in the service 
of the group of divinities, Njoror, Freyja, and Frey, 
and in dmr-worship, which may possibly be a cult of 
ancestors. We know of so few gyftjur that it is surely 
of importance to note what a large proportion of them 
are connected with these cults. To begin with the 
Elder Edda. HyndluljoS mentions the gyftja Hledis, 
the mother of that Ottarr who builds a hbrg for Freyja 
and sacrifices to her. Then there is the story told in 
the saga of Olaf Tryggvason, in the Flateyjarb6k ver- 

iRristni S. ch. 2. 

Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 283 

sion, ch. 173, where Gunnarr helmingr meets the 
priestess of Frey in Sweden. Again, Hervarar Saga 
shows us Alfhildr reddening a horg at night. Now 
all the references we possess to this form of sanctuary 
show that in Norway it was dedicated to the Vanir 
to Frey or Freyja. Then we have J>uriSr hofgyftja in 
Iceland, whose maternal half-brother (and first cousin 
on the father's side), is called Freysgofti, which at any 
rate suggests that the family was addicted to the wor- 
ship of this god. It is thus fully possible that while 
both men and women might be priests or priestesses 
of Frey or Freyja, in late heathen times women were 
excluded from public office in the service of Thor. We 
must note that the temples of two hofgoftar mentioned 
in Norway, at Masri and at GuSbrandsdal, are both 
traditionally associated with Thor. 1 

To sum up. There is reason to believe that besides 
the persons exercising combined priestly and political 
power, there were in Iceland three other classes of chiefs, 
at least until 965. (i) Persons like Hrafnkell Freys- 
goSi, exercising political ascendancy in entire indepen- 
dence of a temple. (2) Persons like l^orsteinn Ingi- 
mundarson, who exercised political ascendancy, but in 
whose family the priestly office had fallen to another of 
the co-heirs. (3) Persons like Broddhelgi, or Hrolfr the 
Younger, who exercised political ascendancy, but whose 
temple was in the hands of a kinswoman. 

In Iceland, where there was at first no other bond 
to attract dependents, and where at first no settled 
thing-places brought people together independently of 
the sacrificial feasts, the temple must have loomed large 
in the public eye, and we can understand that those who 
succeeded in consolidating their power were those who 
possessed and administered this central meeting-place, 
and who, further, did not have to delegate to others 

1 Olaf. Tryggvason throws down the statue of |>6rr at Maeri, Hkr. 
O.T. 69. In the GuSbrandsdal temple is the image of J>6rr " which has 
always aided us." Hkr. O.h. u?.. 

284 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

the observances that gave their acts a religious sanction. 
Hence the final success of the temple-owners in the 
race for power. And here we must be allowed to enter 
a protest against the view, recently repeated both in 
German and English books, that the mass of the Ice- 
landic settlers were half-Christian, wholly atheistic, or 
sunk in special and degrading superstitions. The inci- 
dental mention of a couple of " godless " men, or the 
supposition that heathendom must have been sapped by 
a Viking life, can weigh as nothing against the fact 
that the communal religious feeling in Iceland was so 
strong that it shaped the whole political and adminis- 
trative structure. Chieftainships not connected with 
temples were fore-doomed to extinction. 

Indeed, if one may be permitted to conclude with a 
generalization, one of the most remarkable things about 
early Scandinavian history is the constitutional import- 
ance of religion among a people so entirely lacking in 
a priestly caste. We understand and are ready to make 
allowances for the vast power wielded by the Druids 
among the Celtic peoples, but the absence of priestcraft 
among the Scandinavians ought not to blind us to the 
influences exerted by religion on the social structure. 
We have seen reason to suspect that at least twice in 
the history of Scandinavia religious union preceded and 
fostered political union, and I hope we have also had 
a glimpse of how the political fabric of the youngest 
of the Scandinavian States was slowly built up on the 
basis of its religious organization. 



THE lecture which I am to communicate to you 
to-night is not by any means intended as a final 
settlement of the question, " Thyra, the wife of 
Gorm the old, who was she, English or Danish? " It 
is, on the contrary, merely an attempt to state the case 
in England, to call attention to the issues involved, and 
to interest, if possible, other English enquirers. 

The lecture is a development of the evidence I have 
collected on the subject during research on another 
theme, " Russia as the Eldorado of Canute the Great." 
The question of Thyra is for me but a side issue, yet 
as Denmark came largely into my main work, its his- 
tory had to be investigated for a certain period before 
Canute's reign. Whilst doing this the so-called Con- 
quest of England by the Danes was forced upon my 
notice in a manner it had never been before. English 
boys are rarely taught their own early history, but 
rather that of Greece and Rome. It was with a distinct 
feeling of relief that I read in Saxo Grammaticus that 
Thyra was the daughter of Ethelred, King of England. 
If Thyra were the daughter of Ethelred, King of Eng- 
land, then the invasion of Svein and Canute was no 
foreign conquest, but merely a dynastic change brought 
about by Danish ships and Danish troops, and on the 
same principle as the Wars of the Roses, except that 
in the latter Welsh and French troops were employed. 
When I came to consider the question further I found 
that the most recent Danish opinion on the matter was 
so divided, that in the Danmarks Riges Historie of 1906 
the question is stated as follows : ' ' Some people say 
that Thyra was the daughter of an English king, but 

286 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

others with more probability that she was the daughter 
of Klak Harald, Jarl in Holstein." This statement 
seemed to call for examination, certainly from an Eng- 
lishman. There is every appearance on the face of it 
that it was written in deference to a divided opinion, 
although Professor Steenstrup's name is connected with 
this particular part of the history. 

The elder Danish writers before the end of the six- 
teenth century either followed Saxo in his opinion, or 
they had some other source for their statement, except 
Cornelius Hamsfortii, who calls Thyra the daughter of 
Edward the Elder, and sister of the wife of Otto I., 
Emperor of Germany. This, of course, is wrong, but it 
points to a general idea that Thyra was the daughter 
of an English king. 

Besides the old Danish writers, my authorities for 
the lecture are the Heimskringla, by Snorre Sturlason, 
the Jomsborg Vikings Saga, and the Knytlinga Saga, 
perhaps the best and most reliable of the Icelandic 
sagas dealing with this particular time. I shall take 
the latter part of the the question first, and consider 
what the sagas say about Thyra as the daughter of 
Klak Harald, Jarl in Holstein. 

Carlyle, than whom we have no better judge, said of 
the Heimskringla of Snorre Sturlason that it ought to 
be reckoned amongst the great history books of the 
world, were it properly published with accurate maps 
and well edited. This saga was translated into English 
as long ago as 1844, and it has recently (1899) been 
edited and published anew by Rasmus Anderson, some 
time Minister for the United States at the Court of 
Kopenhagen. For the Jomsborg and Knytlinga Sagas 
I have used Rafn's translation into Danish (1829). 

The contention that Thyra was the daughter of Klak 
Harald rests almost entirely on the sagas. It was not 
heard about at all till towards the end of the sixteenth 
century, about 1594, when the sagas were translated for 
the first time from Icelandic. The Heimskringla tells 

Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 287 

us that a certain Thorny, the wife of Sigurd Hiortr, 
was the sister of Thyra Danmarkarbot, married to King 
Gorm the old, who at that time reigned over the Danish 
dominions ; this Thyra was the daughter of Klak 
Harald. Thorny was the grandmother of Harald Fair- 
hair, King of all Norway, and we are told that Harald 
was born when his mother, Ragnhild, was twenty 
years old. Harald Fairhair died about 930, and suc- 
ceeded his father at the age of ten, about 860, so that 
his mother, Ragnhild, .must have been born in 830, and 
allowing twenty years for Thorny's age when Ragnhild 
was born, we get 809 for the birth of Thorny, the sister, 
according to the saga, of Thyra. The same saga tells 
us that Harald Fairhair, when he was about fifteen 
years of age, wishing for a wife, sent a deputation to 
Gyda, the daughter of King Erik in HorSaland, but 
she refused to come, saying that she would not wed 
until she found the man who could reduce all the kings 
of Norway as Gorm the old had done in Denmark. 
This settles, as far as the saga is concerned, the date 
when Gorm had established his paramount power in 
Denmark, viz., about 865. It may be observed that 
Thyra, the daughter of Ethelred of England, was not 
yet born. 

The Jomsborg Saga gives a highly descriptive and 
detailed account of the courting of Thyra, the daughter 
of Klak Harald, by Gorm. Thyra is said to have been 
so wise and intelligent that she was already associated 
with her father in the government of his small kingdom, 
when Gorm came down from the North of Jutland to 
woo her. Gorm had a large party with him, and Thyra 
was not ready to give her love at once, nor Harald to 
part with her; but Gorm, in the rough and ready 
manner of those days, said that if her father would not 
give her to him for wife he would take her by force, 
which, it appeared, he was quite capable of doing. 
Under these circumstances Thyra decided to play with 
him by her wiles and wisdom till she was ready for him, 

288 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

or perhaps to give her father time to prepare for resist- 
ance. Thyra told Gorm he must go home : there he 
must have a house built in the forest no larger than to 
hold one bed ; on this bed he was to sleep alone for 
three nights, and if he dreamt dreams he was to send 
her an account of them, so that she might ascertain 
whether it would be a happy marriage. 

Gorm went to his place in the north, and had a house 
constructed out in the forest only large enough to hold 
one small bed, in which he slept alone ; but, being a 
wise man, he placed a guard of 300 men round the 
house in the forest to guard against surprise. Under 
these circumstances he dreamt his dreams in peace; 
they are somewhat curious, and have a sort of resem- 
blance to those of Pharaoh. The first dream was that 
he found himself out under the open heaven looking 
over all the land of his kingdom. Then the sea seemed 
to go back from the land till all the salt water lakes 
and fords were dry. Presently he saw three boars come 
up out of the sea ; they begged his pardon, and then 
they fed on the grass around and went back into the sea. 
These boars were white. The second dream was that 
three boars came out of the sea, but they were of a red 
colour, and had large tusks, and behaved just like the 
first three. The third dream was the same, but the 
boars were black, and had the largest tusks of all. 
When these last boars had gone he heard a mighty 
noise, so loud that he thought it must have been heard 
over all Denmark, and the sea came back on the land 
with awful force. Thyra interpreted these dreams 
the three White Boars were three very cold winters, 
when there would be much snow, and all the fruits of 
the ground would be damaged ; the three Red Boars 
were three winters when there would be little snow, and 
the three Black Boars signified wars in the land, and 
that they all went back into the sea proved that these 
troubles would not continue long. The noise of the 
sea when it came back on the land again meant that 

Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 289 

mighty men would come on the land with great wars, 
and many of his relations would take part. If he had 
dreamed this the first night she would not have married 
him, but now there would not be so much injury, 
because she would give advice which would be pro- 
claimed throughout the land. 

It seems as if these dreams had been added by some 
one who knew the Bible account of the dreams of 
Pharaoh and their interpretation. They have been 
added by the Christian skalds in their version of the 
story as told in Iceland. We at least know from another 
account in the saga that at that time Klak Harald was 
a heathen, a believer in the old gods and all the super- 
stitions attending such a belief. After Gorm and 
Thyra had gone back to their homes in the north, Klak 
Harald was invited to visit his son-in-law at Yuletide. 
He left for the north in time to be at the Yule-feast, 
but on the way he saw an apple tree, on which were 
small green apples. This was very remarkable for the 
season of the year, and on the ground were many larger 
apples, arousing great astonishment in Harald and his 
followers, so that they turned and went home again. 
The next year Harald went north again to the Yule- 
feast, invited by his son-in-law, and had almost reached 
the Lim-fjord, when something happened to the hounds 
he had with him, and this caused him to give up his 
visit and go home again. The third year he went north 
again, and reached the ferry over the Lim-fjord on the 
western side. When he was at the ferry it seemed as 
if two waves arose, one from inside the fjord and the 
other from outside, they met at the entrance to the fjord, 
and then they seemed to turn into blood ; and for the 
third time Harald's superstitious fears were aroused, 
and he returned home. From the above we can judge, 
that as far as the circumstances of the saga are con- 
cerned, at the time of his daughter's marriage, and for 
three years after, Klak Harald was a heathen, with all 
the heathen superstitions. We also know very well 


290 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

when Christianity came into his country, for it was 
brought by the celebrated St. Anskar in 825. He 
established a small church at Ribe on the west coast, 
and another celebrated priest became the pastor of the 
church, viz., Rembertus. We also learn from German 
history when Klak Harald was made a Christian. He 
was baptized at Mainz in 826. 

From the above history we can calculate that Thyra 
must have been married to Gorm about 825, which 
would make her birth fall about 806 to 812, and point 
her out as about the same age as her sister Thorny, the 
wife of Sigurd Hiort. 

The same saga tells us that Gorm had two sons, 
Canute and Harald, that Harald was much younger 
than Canute, and that Canute was brought up chiefly 
at the house of his grandfather, Klak Harald, and when 
old enough was given a portion of his kingdom to 
govern ; this marks Canute down as born some time 
before 834, as Klak Harald died in 846, and Canute 
must have been twelve years old at least when he was 
given a kingdom to govern. This would make him at 
least one hundred years old when he was killed in 936. 
These three calculations from the side of the Heims- 
kringla of the birth of Thorny, from the side of the 
Jomsborg Saga of the marriage of Gorm, and from the 
story of Canute's being given a portion of the kingdom 
to govern, give approximately the same date for the 
marriage of Thyra, daughter of Klak Harald, to Gorm, 
viz., 825, and for her birth any date from 806 to 812. 

Of Canute, we hear that he was killed in England or 
Ireland on a Viking cruise, and he left, so far as is 
known, but one son, Gold-Harald, who perished in 
969. What the age of Harald was we are not told, but 
if his father Canute was seventy when he was born, 
Gold-Harald must have been about sixty-six at the time 
he was killed, and nearly as old as Harald Bluetooth, 
his uncle. 

Now we will consider the case of Harald Bluetooth. 

Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 291 

We are told in the Jomsborg Saga that he was much 
younger than his brother, and there seem to have been 
some signs of enmity between them, for we find the 
Jomsborg Saga saying that Harald killed Canute, 
which cannot be right, yet w r e find from the Heims- 
kringla that even if Harald did not kill his brother, he 
may be almost considered as an accessory to the death 
of Gold-Harald. He was afraid that Gold-Harald 
would attempt to fight him for half the land of Den- 
mark, and, by an arrangement with Earl Hakon, Gold- 
Harald was killed. 

If there is one thing certain about Harald Bluetooth 
it is his death, which happened within a year on either 
side of 986. We have decided that Thyra, the daughter 
of Klak Harald, was born not later than 812. Can she 
possibly have been the mother of Harald Bluetooth ? 
We are told in Medical Jurisprudence that sixty years 
is the extreme limit of a woman's powers of bearing 
children, though we have the account of Sarah, who 
bore Isaac at the age of ninety, which has been a stand- 
ing wonder for centuries. We cannot suppose that 
Thyra was any exception to the common lot, and there- 
fore she cannot have been the mother of Harald Blue- 
tooth, whatever her relation to Cnut Danaast may have 

We are told in Danmarks Riges' Historic that Thyra 
knew from her birth the necessity of building a Dane- 
virke, with which the name of Thyra is connected, and 
this is considered one of the side proofs that Thyra w r as 
the daughter of Klak Harald, as she was brought up 
near the Danevirke. But it is evident that she could 
not have been the mother of Harald Bluetooth, neither 
could she have governed the kingdom in Gorm's old 

I think now we have come to the time when we may 
say that it is most probable that Thyra the daughter 
of Klak Harald, was not the mother of Harald Blue- 

292 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

We will now take the case of Thyra as the daughter 
of Ethelred, King of England, a fact which Saxo dis- 
tinctly states in his history. Here he is in company 
with all the old writers of Denmark before the end of 
the sixteenth century, except Cornelius Hamsfortii, who 
says that Thyra was the daughter of Edward the Elder, 
and sister of the wife of Otto I., Emperor of Germany, 
which of course is wrong; but Thyra as the daughter 
of Ethelred would have been a second cousin of Editha, 
Otto's wife. 

Thyra was, of course, a Christian, but there is a 
curious story in Saxo of her wishing for dreams as 10 
the future before she would give herself up to her hus- 
band, and there is a statement that Canute and Harald 
went over to England to wrest the kingdom from their 
grandfather; but, of course, this is incorrect, as Ethel- 
red must have been dead before Gorm even married 
Thyra. Yet there is no doubt that Harald and Canute 
were in England at different times, and they, or at least 
Harald, may have had some idea that he had a claim 
on the kingdom. 

What history teaches us about the children of 
Ethelred is very little; we know from the will of Alfred 
the Great that there was a difference over their money 
matters between the two brothers, and it was finally 
agreed that all the money should go to the survivor 
unless the other had left a will. Ethelred died first, 
and somewhat suddenly, without making a will, and 
Alfred took all the money to himself, leaving in his 
will only seven small manors to his nephews, Athel- 
maer and Ethelwold, and six manors between his 
daughters; but he stated that he only left to the spindle 
side what had belonged to him and Ethelred, and not 
what had been left by his father. This may be a reason 
why no mention is made of any daughter of Ethelred 
in the will. In the time of Alfred, when a younger 
brother was made king in consequence of the youth 
of his elder brother's children, as Alfred the Great was, 

Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 293 

then it was usual for the elder brother's children, if 
they were grown up, to inherit the kingdom after their 
uncle, and not the younger brother's children. But 
King Alfred, having all the money and all the power, 
managed that his own son, Edward the Elder, should 
succeed him, to the detriment of Ethelred's children. 
Ethelwold, the youngest of the two sons of Ethelred 
mentioned in the will, did attempt to establish his prior 
right to the throne, in which he was assisted by the 
Normans and Danes of East Anglia and North- 
umberland. It must be remembered that the North of 
England north of Watling Street was almost entirely 
Danish at this time, and it was the Danes who backed 
Ethelwold. Gorm might even have been amongst 
them. Unfortunately, Ethelwold was killed, and the 
rising subsided. 

Steenstrup, in his Normanerne, when referring to the 
building of the Danevirke and the Burghs in England, 
calls attention to the similarity of their construction, 
especially about the escarpment of the ditch, as being 
different from the German and French burgs, which 
were also being built about that time. He adds that 
there was another similarity ; that they were built by 
women, and women whose husbands were ill at the 
time ; and he adds a third resemblance, if Saxo is right, 
that is, that both were built by the daughters of a king. 
He might have added that there was no wonder that 
they were alike, as they were built by cousins, for 
Thyra, the daughter of Ethelred, was the cousin of 
Athelflaed, who built the burghs in England. 

In another part of the same book Professor Steen- 
strup calls attention to the great number of treacheries 
which took place in England during the invasion of 
England by Svein and Canute, and he adds that there 
are not many instances in all history that a nation has 
been so often and so thoroughly betrayed by its own 
people as the Anglo-Saxons were at that time, except 
there had been a dynastic strife. But if Thyra was the 

2Q4 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

daughter of Kthelred, then the so-called invasion of 
Svein and Canute was a dynastic strife ; for they had 
more right to the throne than Ethelred the II. They 
were in fact, almost in the same condition relative to 
Ethelred II., as the Duke of York and his son, Edward 
IV., were to Henry VI. at the time of the Wars of the 
Roses. The Duke of York was unquestionably heir 
general of the royal line through his mother Anne, 
daughter of Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, son of 
Phillippa, daughter of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, third 
son of Edward III., as against the reigning sovereign, 
Henry VI., a weak king, descended from a younger 
brother of Lionel. Similarly we may say that Svein 
was undoubtedly heir general of the royal line by his 
grandmother, Thyra, daughter of Ethelred I., elder 
brother of Alfred the Great, as compared with the weak 
king, Ethelred II., descended from the younger brother, 
Alfred the Great. The similarity in the treacheries is 
far too striking not to be the result of the same cause, 
viz., a dynastic struggle, and is strong corroborative 
evidence for the accuracy of Saxo's statement that 
Thyra was the daughter of Ethelred I. 

The number of traitors in both cases was very large, 
and includes all sorts and conditions of men. The 
great traitors, Warwick and the Duke of Clarence, in the 
Wars of the Roses, are well represented by ./Elfric and 
by Eadric Streona ; the latter's constant changes of side 
and near connection to the King Ethelred II. are on a 
par with that of the Duke of Clarence, for the treachery 
of Eadric Streona has never been properly explained. 
It puzzled Professor Ereeman, but I think, in the light 
of a dynastic dispute, his change of side may be 
accounted for. 

Eadric Streona was the son of one ^Ethelric of Bock- 
ing, in Essex, who was accused to the king about 995 
that he had said that Svein ought to be received in 
Essex; this accusation appears to have been kept in 
reserve till his will was brought to be confirmed by 

Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 295 

King Ethelred II.; Eadric Streona was the Thane of 
Oswald, at one time Bishop of Worcester, and after- 
wards Archbishop of York, who was a Dane, and a 
great friend, I think a nephew, of Archbishop Odda, 
who was Archbishop of Canterbury. This gave Eadric 
a very good start in life, and his father could not have 
been such an unknown person as Freeman has stated, 
and as we know Eadric married Ethelred 's daughter. 
Amongst the signatures to the will of yEthelric of Bock- 
ing is the signature of ^thelmaer, immediately after 
those of the bishops, and at the head of the Thanes. 
This is most probably ^Ethelmaer, the great Earl of 
Wessex, son of the historian, ^Ethelweard, who claimed 
descent from Ethelred I., but whether from a son or 
another daughter is not known. These people must 
have known that Svein was the head of the House of 
Ethelred I., and may have been in league with him to 
restore their common ancestors' family to the throne. 
When Svein came south from Gainsborough we find 
the Wessex thanes met him at Bath to give their 
allegiance, and when Canute came back in 1015, after 
Svein 's death, yEthelmaer and the Wessex thanes wel- 
comed him, and after the defeat at Penselwood we find 
that ^Ethelmaer still clung to Canute, for he was at 
the Battle of Sherston near Malmsbury. 

When Canute, after the death of Edmund Ironside, 
divided the kingdom of England into earldoms, he 
reserved Wessex for himself. Was it because it was 
the rightful property of his ancestors ? 

The contention that Svein and his son Canute had, 
like the Duke of York and his son Edward IV., a prior 
right to the throne of England over the then reigning 
king, accounts for so many difficulties in the history 
of that time, that it may be taken as strong corrobora- 
tive evidence in favour of Saxo's account of Thyra 's 
birth. It accounts for most of the treachery during the 
so-called conquest of England by Svein and Canute, 
it accounts for the special form of treachery of Eadric 

296 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

Streona, it accounts for the change back to Ethelred II. 
when Svein died, as being the most fitting man of the 
descendants of ^Ethelwulf left in England, bad as he 
was; as well as for the return to Canute when he had 
proved himself as fitting a man as his father. It 
accounts for the willingness to divide the kingdom 
between the two rival dynasties, and finally it accounts 
for the wonderful manner in which England accepted 
the rule of Canute, when once he had asserted his right 
to the throne, both by descent and conquest and by 
election, just in the same manner as the English people 
behaved towards Edward IV., when once his power 
was established. 

Now I hope I have persuaded you that the account 
of Thyra's birth ought to be that some people say she 
was the daughter of Klak Harald, a Jarl or King in 
Holstein, but that it is more probable that she was the 
daughter of Ethelred, King of England. I have one 
other piece of proof, which, although it could not be 
brought in by itself, can at least confirm the already 
considerable body of evidence. About the time that, 
according to the sagas, Gorm and the daughter of Klak 
Harald were being married, viz., in 825, Christianity 
was first brought to Denmark by St. Anskar, and he 
founded a small church at Ribe, a port close to the sea 
on the west coast of Denmark in those days, but now 
somewhat inland. It is just to the south of the islands 
of Fano and Mano, close to which latter is the now 
flourishing port of Esbjerg, which was, however, non- 
existent sixty years ago. At Ribe there was a Christian 
church built, and Rembertus was the pastor. He suc- 
ceeded St. Anskar as Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen 
in 865, but he no doubt kept up his interest in the 
church of Ribe until his death in 888, for the port 
of Ribe was only a few hours' sail from Hamburg. 
Opposite Ribe, on the south part of the small island of 
Eano is the village of Sonderho. Some sixty years 
ago, before the great changes which took place as a 

Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 297 



2g 8 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

consequence of the increasing trade of the port of 
Ksbjerg, a Mr. Marryat was travelling in Denmark for 
archaeological purposes. At Sonderho he heard a 
tradition that Thyra, the wife of Gorm, the daughter 
of an English king, had given the font to the old Son- 
derho church in consequence of her having been saved 
from drowning when she was wrecked off Mano island 
on her way to Ribe to marry Gorm the old. Mr. 
Marryat did not pay much attention, and merely 
remarks that the font was an unshapely mass of 
granite. There is no doubt that the font, looked at 
casually, is to-day an unshapely mass, but on examina- 
tion it may be noticed that from one direction it is very 
graceful and symmetrical, although from others most 
ungainly and ugly; further examination will show that 
the font has been badly treated, and much of it roughly 
broken, especially at the sides, just like the monuments 
in our churches were treated at the time of the Common- 
wealth, and that the greater part of the rim has been 
chipped away. There are five other granite fonts in Jut- 
land, one close to Sonderho at Brondon, on the main- 
land. These are of the twelfth century; they have four 
crosses on the rim and one or two on the side. We 
can now see why the sides of the Sonderho font were 
broken, viz., to get rid of the crosses on the font rim 
and on the side. It seems very probable that the font 
at Sonderho had originally some crosses on the side and 
on the rim, which at some time were broken away, and 
it takes a great deal to break away the side of a granite 
font ; it was done purposely. There is no doubt that at 
one time the font was an extremely fine one and very 
graceful in its outline, and it was made at a time when 
good workers did work for Christian buildings. In 
comparison with the five fonts made in the twelfth cen- 
tury it was much more graceful in its lines. This font 
later fell into disrepute, was roughly treated by some- 
body's orders, for no amount of casual damage would 
equal the harm which has been done to it. Granite is 

Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 299 


300 Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 

one of the hardest of stones. The font was again 
restored to favour, but it was used in its damaged con- 
dition, with the tradition attached to it which has 
already been stated. It is situated in the very place 
where a traveller coming from England would be 
wrecked. It is old enough to have been made at the 
time mentioned, i.e., about 900. It bears evidence of 
having been wilfully damaged in a manner which would 
occur during a lapse from Christianity, such as occurred 
during the regn of Svein, so I think we may add this 
as a scintilla of additional evidence in favour of Thyra's 
being the daughter of Kthelred I. of England. 

The Danmarks Riges Historie gives a choice of two 
solutions for the birth of Thyra, I should like to offer 
a third, and that is that Gorm the old had two wives, 
both of them named Thyra. The first was the daughter 
of Klak Harald, and the second the daughter of Ethel- 
red of England. Some one will no doubt ask how did 
an English king's daughter come by such a Scandi- 
navian name as Thyra; the answer is that Ethelred's 
mother was the daughter of the last of the princes of 
Moen, who were of Jutish descent. 

There is no difficulty in Gorm's having two wives, in 
succession or even together, or even of the same name. 
The instance of Halfdan the Black, King of Norway, 
immediately recurs to memory. 

We have seen that Thyra, the daughter of Klak 
Harald, could not for physical reasons have been the 
mother of Harald Bluetooth ; but there is no great 
physical difficulty about Gorm, even at the age of over 
eighty, being his father when he married the young 
daughter of Ethelred of England, who would have been 
about twenty-eight years old. 

In support of the suggestion I have made I may 
remark on the inscriptions on the two rune stones in 
Jellinge churchyard, a large one ancj a small one. The 
church lies between two immense tumuli. The northern 
one is called by tradition Thyra's grave, but by a 

Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 30! 

curious chance the smaller rune stone, which comes 
from the southern tumulus, is inscribed as follows : 
" Gorm made this monument in memory of his wife 
Thyra Danmarkarbot." It is generally stated that 
Thyra lived after Gorm, which this monument proves 
an error, unless there were two Thyras. The larger 
rune stone, which is said to have been always in the 
churchyard, tells us that Harald the king bade make 
this stone after Gorm his father and Thyra his mother, 
the Harald who conquered all Denmark and Norway 
and made the Danes Christian. 

It is noticeable that Thyra is not called Danmarkar- 
bot on the larger stone. 1 It seems to me that there must 
have been two Thyras one who helped Gorm when he 
was conquering all the smaller kings, and a second 
Thyra who was the Thyra of his old age, who built the 
Danework, and who outlived him, and was the mother 
of Harald Bluetooth. 

Photographs of Thyra's Font. Photo I. represents 
the general appearance of the font, shewing that, with 
the exception of the broken parts, it is graceful in form, 
much more so than the twelfth century granite fonts. 
The uneven line on the left upper rim is due to its 
damaged condition. A piece has been broken off on 
the right upper corner of the photograph, but the 
greatest damage has been done in the lower left-hand 
corner, which place corresponds to a cross on the 
twelfth century font near Skuer in Jutland. High up 
on the left of Photo I. is a broken piece. This is shown 
on Photo II. in front view, and corresponds to a Runic 
inscription on the twelfth century font near Skuer. 

1 It may also be noticed that on the smaller stone the name is spelt 
Thurin, while on the larger it is Thourin. 

Curtis &> Beamish, Ltd., Coventry. 

tfihing jforietg far flatifwrn 


HE SOCIETY is founded for all interested in the North and its literature 
and antiquities. 

Subscription: Annual aos. ; Life 20 for the Saga-Book (Proceedings], 
Year-book, and Old-Lore Series of Miscellany and Records ; 
or Annual IDS. 6d., Life, 10 IDS. for (i) Saga-book and Year-book, or 

(2) Old-Lore Series and Year-book. 

The Council, which is elected annually by the Members, has the sole 
management of the income and all other affairs of the Society. No liabilities 
are incurred beyond the funds in hand. 

The composition of Life Members is permanently invested in an Endowment 
Fund, which now amounts to 332. 

COUNTRY AND FOREIGN MEMBERS. The whole funds are, in effect, 
devoted to the Publications. Very little expense is incurred by Meetings, 
which are indispensable for procuring, reading, and discussing Papers, so 
that Country Members really participate in the full benefits of the Society. 

ENLISTING NKW MKMBERS. The working expenses of the Society remain 
practically the same for any number of Members, so that all new Subscriptions 
gained 'go to enlarge the Publications. Members and others interested in 
Northern Studies are therefore earnestly requested to introduce new Members, 
and to forward the names and addresses of others interested in the work of the 
Society to the Honorary Secretary. 

The means by which the Society seeks to promote its objects are 
briefly, by : 

(1) Meetings for the discussion of Papers on Northern history, literature, music, art, 

archaeology, language, folklore, and anthropology. 

(2) Publication of the Saga-Book (Proceedings), Year-Book, and the Old-Lore Series of 

Miscellany and Records. 

(3) Encouraging the transcription and publication of original documents relating to 

Northern history, etc., and the translation of Sagas and other works on 
Northern subjects ; 

(4) Formation of a Library of Books, MSS., maps, etc., relating to Northern history 

and antiquities; 

(5) Exhibition of Northern antiquities. 

(6) Social Gatherings, etc. 

Meetings are held from November to May, in the University of London, 
S.W. The Annual Dinner takes place in June or July, and occasional 
summer visits are made to places of Northern interest. 



Objects. The Saga-Book contains the Proceedings and Reports 
of the transactions of Meetings held in the University of 
London, King's College ; upon subjects connected with 
Northern history, literature, music, art, archaeology, language, 
folklore, anthropology, philology, and other matters of 
Northern or other antiquarian interest concerning the 
Viking Period; and contributions relating to the Sagas. 

Illustrations and Maps are used when possible. 


The Year-Book is published annually and contains 
The Annual Report. 
Reports of Hon. District Secretaries. 
List of Members. 
Additions to the Library. 
Donations to the Funds. 
Notes and Queries. 
Reviews of Books. 
Obituary, etc. 

RESEARCH FUND. Donations are invited for special researc 
survey of place-names in Orkney, Shetland Caithness, Su 
etc. A capital sum of 5,OOO is wanted for this purpoi 


"OLD=LORE" Series 

of the 




Objects. The aim of the Old-lore Series is to bring together materials for 
the history of the Old Norse Earldom of Orkney, Shetland, Caithness 
and Sutherland as well as generally of the Norse race in the North of 
Scotland, from all available sources, whether printed works, manu- 
scripts, archaeology, folklore, or otherwise. It is also a medium of 
notes and queries for all interested in these subjects. 

Publication. Miscellany and Records, in separate covers, issued quarterly 
Caithness and Sutherland Records issued in separate covers about 
six numbers in all annually. Each member will receive copies of all 
publications, viz. : Miscellany, four parts, and Records about two 

1. Miscellany. Notes and Queries, Genealogy, Folklore, Words of Norse 
origin in the dialects of Orkney, Shetland, Caithness and the North 
of Scotland, Saga references, Archasology, Industries, Bibliography, 
Photographs of Local Scenery and Antiquities, Natural History, 
Reports on old Manuscripts, and papers which may be sent for 
inspection, etc., etc. 
Notes and Queries are invited for the Miscellany. 

2. Orkney and Shetland Records: 

a. Extracts and translations from Diplomatarium Norvegicum, and Danish, Swedish, 

Icelandic, Farbese, and other foreign records. 

b. Extracts from Scottish, English, Welsh, Irish, and Manx records, Parliamentary 

Returns, Record Commission Reports, also extracts from all books, Proceedings 
of Societies, etc. 

c. Commissary records, Sasines registers, Diligence register, Local register, Bailiary 

Court Books, Prptocal books, General registers, Parish registers of births, 
deaths, and marriages. Collection of Orkney and Shetland papers, etc., in the 
Register House, Edinburgh. 

d. Synod and Kirk session minutes. 

e. Sheriff Court Books. 

/. Burgh and County records. 

>.'. MSS. in private collections. 

h. Orkney and Shetland rentals Revision of Peterkin's rentals, unprinted rentals in 
Register House and Charter Room of the Town Council of Edinburgh, and in 
private collections. The MSS. of three Shetland rentals are now ready to go 
to press. Hitherto no rental of Shetland has been printed. 

'. Valuation of Orkney 1653. 

3. Caithness and Sutherland Records. 

4. Orkney and Shetland Place-names. The Survey of Orkney place-names 
is now in progress. 

5. Translations. A translation of Professor Haegstad's " Hildinakvad," or 
Foula ballad, is in progress. 

6. Reprints of rare works, tracts, law papers, etc. 

Illustrations are used as much as possible. 

itions, such as the collection of words of Norse origin, and the 
e North of Scotland ; printing special volumes of local records, 

1 5 n <n 

DA 750 .V6 v.7-8 IMS 

Saga book of the 
Viking Club 



2?6l6 '